Transcript of bishop's statement of resignation

By Dr. Brendan Comiskey
Reprinted in the Irish Times
April 2, 2002

The following is a transcript of the statement read yesterday morning by Dr Brendan Comiskey on his resignation as Bishop of Ferns:

"To begin, I wish to apologise to each of the four men whose stories of abuse have been depicted in the recently-broadcast documentary and to all who have been abused by priests of the diocese.

"The sexual abuse of children is deeply abhorrent to me. I apologise also to the families of victims and to all others who have been offended or hurt in different ways by the late Father Seán Fortune.

"In endeavouring to deal with the complexity and conflict which always surrounded Father Fortune, and already existed prior to my appointment as Bishop of Ferns in May 1984, I can only assure you that I did my best. Clearly this was not good enough. I found Father Fortune virtually impossible to deal with.

"I confronted him regularly; for a time, I removed him from ministry; I sought professional advice in several quarters; I listened to the criticisms and the praise; I tried compassion and I tried firmness; treatment was sought and arranged - and yet I never managed to achieve any level of statisfactory outcome.

"Father Fortune committed very grave wrongs and hurt many people. Despite the difficulties he presented in management terms, I should have adopted a more informed and more concerted approach to any dealings with him, and for this I ask forgiveness.

"One of the tasks undertaken by a priest in pastoral ministry is to bring unity among people of faith. It is a sad reality that wherever Father Fortune served he brought division and pain.

"As Bishop, I should be a binding force among people and priests within the ministry of the Church.

"I had hoped that I could bring about reconciliation between the diocese and those who were abused. Such, I hope, might be part of their healing.

"It was in this spirit that I proposed last week that I would write to the four men involved in the documentary.

"I now recognise that I am not the person who can best achieve these aims of unity and reconciliation. My continuation in office could indeed be an obstacle to healing.

"For these reasons, on Thursday last I tendered my resignation as Bishop to Pope John Paul. I travel to Rome later this week in furtherance of this process.

"I trust and have confidence that whoever will replace me will carry forward the vital work of healing and reconciliation within the diocese.

"I will be available to my successor in whatever way is useful to be part of this in the future.

"Although there have been challenges and difficulties during my 18 years as Bishop, I will cherish my time here. To the people, priests and religious of the diocese, and those of the other churches who were part of that life and ministry, I offer my sincere thanks.

"Having resigned my office as Bishop, I intend to undertake initially a period of personal discernment as I prepare for the next stage in my life.

"I look forward, with God's help, to continuing my work as a priest - as determined in consultation with my ecclesiastical superiors in Rome.

"I ask for the prayers of my people as I begin this journey."







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