Pressure was growing on Cardinal Sean Brady to resign last night after the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin called for reform of the Irish Catholic Church to tackle the roots of the secretive culture that led to cover-ups of paedophile priests.
Bishop James Moriarty issued his call after Pope Benedict XVI yesterday officially confirmed acceptance of his resignation, offered last December in the wake of public fury at the shocking findings of the Murphy investigation into the archdiocese of Dublin.
“The decision to offer my resignation was the most difficult decision of my ministry,” Bishop Moriarty said in a statement.
“I did not anticipate resigning when I first read the Murphy Report, because I was not directly criticised.
“However, the Murphy Report covers far more than what individual bishops did or did not do. Renewal must begin with accepting responsibility for the past.”
Bishop Moriarty was an Auxiliary Bishop in Dublin from 1991 until 2002.
“I was part of the governance of the Archdiocese prior to when correct child protection policies and procedures were implemented,” he admitted.
“Again I accept that from the time I became an auxiliary bishop, I should have challenged the prevailing culture.”
Dr Moriarty again apologised to survivors and their families. “The truth is that the long struggle of survivors to be heard and respected by church authorities has revealed a culture within the church that many would simply describe as unchristian,” he said.
Bishop Moriarty went on to rally Irish Catholics in favour of Church reform, rather than leaving in disillusion. He spoke of how the spiritual well-being of “the people of God” demanded that the principle of the Church as always in need of reform — which was embraced at the Second Vatican Council — should again come to the forefront.
Dublin abuse victim Andrew Madden, who spoke on the phone to Bishop Moriarty, told him he was very grateful for the content and tone of his resignation statement.
But Marie Collins, who was abused by a Catholic priest in a children's hospital almost 50 years ago, said it was undignified for senior clerics implicated in the scandals to cling to power.
Collins also urged Primate of all Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady to consider his position, pointing to Bishop Moriarty's assertion that responsibility must be accepted for the past.
He has been under intense pressure in the last month after admitting holding secret interviews with two young victims of one of the Church's most heinous sex abusers, the late Brendan Smyth, in the 1970s.
“I think Cardinal Brady hasn't yet accepted responsibility for the past, particularly his own past,” Ms Collins said.
“I hope he will read that and it will give him some pause for thought in his deliberations and whether he should resign or not.”
Earlier Cardinal Brady paid tribute to his former colleague.
“Bishop Moriarty's vision and innovative approach to his work in the Bishops' Conference will be missed as will his great pastoral wisdom and experience.”
But Bishop Moriarty's statement renewed the pressure either to resign or retire on former Dublin auxiliary Martin Drennan, now Bishop of Galway, and Cardinal Brady.
Last night it was unclear when Pope Benedict would replace Bishop Moriarty.
Senior Church sources suggested there might be a delay pending a Vatican-directed scaling down of the number of Irish bishoprics from its present total of 26.