Irish bishop quits over sex abuse, others under pressure

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DUBLIN (AFP) - – The pope on Thursday accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop who was criticised for covering up child sex abuse, but pressure remained on other clergy to go over a scandal that has rocked Ireland.

Pope Benedict XVI accepted Limerick Bishop Donal Murray's request to quit after the Irishman was named in a damning report last month that found top prelates concealed clerical abuse of children over more than three decades.

Murray "humbly" apologised for his role in the scandal but said that even his resignation "cannot undo the pain" of those who suffered.

Last month's Murphy report found that church leaders in Dublin did not report abuse to police until the 1990s as part of a culture of secrecy and an over-riding wish to avoid damaging the reputation of the Catholic Church.

It condemned Murray for "inexcusable" attempts to cover up abuse claims while serving as an auxiliary bishop in the Dublin archdiocese in the 1980s.

His resignation adds to pressure on four other bishops who served with him -- and within hours of it being confirmed by the Vatican, the archbishop of Dublin appeared to hint at further resignations.

"Responsibility must be taken by all who hold a position of authority and collective responsibility," said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, adding that he would meet all those named in the Murphy report "about changes I want."

"This is without doubt, a period of deep crisis in this Archdiocese. Priests and people of this diocese see that there can be no healing without radical change," he added.

In the Murphy report, one priest admitted to sexually abusing over 100 children, while another confessed that he had abused children on a fortnightly basis over 25 years.

After the Vatican announced his resignation, Murray told his congregation in Limerick, southwest Ireland, that he had asked to quit because he believed his "presence will create difficulties for some of the survivors."

"I know full well that my resignation cannot undo the pain that survivors of abuse have suffered in the past and continue to suffer each day.

"I humbly apologise once again to all who were abused as little children," he said.

Campaigners for victims of the abuse said Murray's resignation was not enough.

"One resignation does not signal a major policy change in the Catholic Church," said Maeve Lewis, executive director of Ireland's leading victim groups, the One in Four group.

"Bishop Murray was only one of a number of auxiliary bishops in the Dublin archdiocese who had information about serial sex offenders and who failed to act with the result that many other children were sexually abused.

"I believe each one of these bishops must now resign if the Church is to retain any credibility."

One of the senior clerics mentioned in the report, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Jim Moriarty, hinted that he may go.

"I am 73 years old and I am obliged to hand in my resignation when I turn 75. However, if it will serve the Church, the people and the victims, I am prepared to go sooner," he said.

"But no decision has been taken on that yet," he added on the KCLR local radio station.

The pope met last week with Ireland's two most senior Roman Catholic churchmen, Dublin Archbishop Martin and primate of all Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady.

In a statement Friday the pope apologised for the abuse, saying he "shares the outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland (over) these heinous crimes".