Irish bishop to resign over child abuse scandal

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A Bishop severely criticised for mishandling clerical child sex abuse cases in Ireland was expected to offer his resignation to Pope Benedict in Rome today.

Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray was found to have behaved inexcusably when he failed to fully investigate a paedophile priest during his time in the Dublin Archdiocese.

It is understood he arranged a meeting with the Pope ahead of the Irish Bishops' Conference in Maynooth on Wednesday and after pressure mounted from within the hierarchy, including calls from Cardinal Sean Brady for him to do the right thing.

Catholic Church insiders said Bishop Murray is expected to personally tender his resignation in the Vatican.

The Cardinal and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin will meet with the Pope in Rome later in the week.

It is expected Bishop Murray's resignation will be accepted and he will leave office although he will retain his title.

In a letter read out at weekend Masses across Limerick, Bishop Murray asked for people to pray for him over the coming days.

"Bishop Murray is acutely aware of the pain and anguish that has been experienced and expressed in the last week," the letter said.

"He is reflecting on the decision that he now has to make."

Other senior Irish clergy to have suffered a similar fate include Bishop Eamon Casey, who had an affair with an American woman, Annie Murphy, and was the father of her son, and Bishop Brendan Comiskey, who resigned after child sex abuse scandals were uncovered in the Ferns Diocese.

Under Catholic Church law, Pope Benedict will decide whether to accept Bishop Murray's resignation.

The Irish Bishops' Conference would be obliged, also under canon law, to ensure the upkeep of a bishop who has resigned.

Minister for Children Barry Andrews said he was not surprised that pressure was being placed on Bishop Murray to resign.

"I think it's everybody's view that if adverse findings were made against an individual in a commission or inquiry such as this then it would be amazing that there would be no consequences for them," he added.

The minister also expressed disappointment at the lack of response from the Vatican on the report's damning findings.

"The Catholic Church is the main focus of this report and the Catholic Church is led from Rome.

"Naturally we would expect there to be some reflections from Rome about what it means in terms of the delivery of safe practices for children in this country, in terms of the Catholic Church and how they are as patrons of our national schools, and how they're going to provide us with the reassurance that they have and will comply with best practice in child protection in the future."