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The following is from Father Fergus O’Donoghue’s Blog
Father O’Donoghue is editor of “Studies: an Irish Quarterly Review”

Murphy Report: reflecting on Bishop O’Mahony

February 1, 2010 · 21 Comments

A murder trial had transfixed Ireland for two weeks, so the Murphy Report has attracted less interest. It might seem that Bishop Dermot O’Mahony represents a lost cause as he opposes the current consensus. *
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

In fact, Bishop O’Mahony makes strong points in his Letter to Members of the Council of Priests (of Dublin Diocese, 30th Dec. 2009).  He is strongly critical of  statements made by Archbishop Martin because “You were out of the Diocese for 31 years and had no idea how traumatic it was for those of us who had to deal with allegations without protocols or guidelines or experience in the matter of child sex abuse.”

Bishop O’Mahony challenges the view that the Murphy Report is the full truth, because it allows a learning curve for the other professions it criticises, but not for the clergy; it puts an emphasis on collective responsibility and falsely charges the Diocese with lack of concern about the safety of children.

Bishop O’Mahony is angered by media and current diocesan acceptance of a “cover up,” because a police investigation, in 2003, found no sign of interference with evidence and no attempt to obstruct the course of justice.

Harshest of all is Dermot O’Mahony’s statement that Diarmuid Martin “did nothing to counteract the statement of the Murphy Report, widely circulated in the media that ‘the majority of clergy knew and did nothing’.

The majority of the clergy, in fact, knew nothing.  Many priests of the Diocese are very angry.

Extract from “Comments”

  Kilbarry1 // February 2, 2010 at 9:21 am
Little coverage has been given in the media to the most extra-ordinary aspect of the correspondence between Bishop Dermot O’Mahony and the Archbishop i.e. the fact that the Archbishop claimed: “I regret that you did not express any public clarification or remorse or apology.” (letter dated 2 December 2009).

However Bishop O’Mahony had sent a statement to the Archbishop’s Director of Communications Annette O’Donnell on 27 October 2009 which concluded : “I profoundly regret that any action or inaction of mine should have contributed to the suffering of even a single child. I want to apologise for my failures from the bottom of my heart”. The Irish Catholic reports that “When asked if the Archbishop saw Bishop O’Mahony’s letter of apology Ms. O’Donnell said: “Yes he did see it.” Yet the Statement was not published by the Communications Office.

How on earth could the Archbishop have made that allegation against Bishop O’Mahony? Did he forget? If so why has he not apologised himself? Did he just assume that he could say what he liked and the truth would never emerge? That seems a more likely scenario. After all the Bishop’s release of the correspondence to the press is unprecedented.

Surely our investigative journalists should be putting a little pressure on Archbishop Martin with a view to clarifying this issue!

Kilbarry1 // February 2, 2010 at 9:50 am
My previous comment has appeared out of sequence – which has happened before. Anyway Archbishop Martin has replied to Bishop O’Mahony while completely ignoring the main issue i.e. his own allegation that “you did not express any public clarification, or remorse or apology”.

In an article in the Irish Times on 30 January the Archbishop is quoted while speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos:

” Dr Martin said that Dr O’Mahony had, like many others, not accepted accountability for the failings outlined in the report and that he “perpetuates this mistake by misquoting the report” in his correspondence.

“All I would like to see is people accept accountability and say, ‘look this is what happened’. In that letter, there is a certain rejection of what happened – that this horrendous scandal and the cover- up never took place. This I don’t accept,” said Dr Martin.”

The article is entitled “Clergy Exposed in Murphy ‘Must Take Responsibility’ *** but the Archbishop makes no effort to apologise for his own false allegation against Bishop O’Mahony.


* The following is the Irish Independent article about Bishop O’Mahony that Fr. O’Donoghue is referring to:

Bishop Fires Back at Martin - Challenge Abuse Report, Says O'Mahony

Irish Independent, 28 January 2010, by John Cooney

A RETIRED auxiliary bishop of Dublin who was severely criticised by the Murphy Report has called on priests to question its findings of a cover-up of paedophile priests in the archdiocese.

Defiant Bishop Dermot O'Mahony has also circulated his heated personal correspondence with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who uncompromisingly accused him of "underestimating the degree of dismay and anger that people feel about the commission's references to you".

Archbishop Martin had claimed Bishop O'Mahony showed neither remorse nor apology for the mishandling of clerical child abuse complaints.

Early last month, he ordered the auxiliary bishop to refrain from administering the Sacrament of Confirmation in the diocese and to cease his association with the Irish Pilgrimage Trust, which brings children with special needs to Lourdes.

On December 30, Bishop O'Mahony "willingly but with great sadness" accepted these restrictions.

But he said the letter from the Archbishop "was the harshest communication I have ever received from anyone during my 34 years as bishop and almost 50 years as a priest".

The publication by the 'Irish Catholic' of the explosive correspondence threatens to fuel a clerical revolt against Archbishop Martin's authority and it amounts to an incitement to clerical disobedience against the judicial findings of a state inquiry.

Publication of the letters sent between two senior churchmen is an extremely unusual breach of the normally tight-control of church information by ecclesiastical authorities.

Its cutting language will further divide the Irish bishops as they prepare for their summit in Rome on February 15 with Pope Benedict, especially as Bishop O'Mahony has sent copies of the letters to the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Guiseppe Leanza.

Two other auxiliary bishops who resigned under pressure on Christmas Eve, Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field, are understood to feel sore about the manner in which Archbishop Martin handled his relations with them.

In an explanatory note to priests, Bishop O'Mahony writes that the background to the row was when he had voiced his regret at the Archbishop's lack of support for his clergy at a meeting of Dublin priests on November 30, four days after the release of the report.

"Unlike Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, who defended the gardai and said 'it was a different time then', the Archbishop did nothing to counteract the statement of the Murphy Report, widely circulated in the media, that 'the majority of clergy knew and did nothing'," Bishop O'Mahony said.

This drew a curt retort from Archbishop Martin on December 2, when he wrote: "I regret -- and I know that this regret is shared by many believing people in the parishes in which you served -- that your commitment as auxiliary bishop to the priests and people of the diocese now appears tarnished by the findings of the report and your refusal to recognise that fact. "

Hitting back, Bishop O'Mahony told the Archbishop his criticisms of clergy "were unfair" and referred to his time abroad as a Vatican diplomat. "You were out of the diocese for 31 years and had no idea how traumatic it was for those of us who had to deal with allegations without protocols ... in the matter of child sex abuse"

Bishop O'Mahony called on priests to challenge "the acceptance by media and current diocesan policy that a 'cover-up' took place".

Bishop O'Mahony also said that he sent a letter of remorse to the Archbishop's Director of Communications before the Murphy report was published.

Annette O'Donnell has confirmed that the Archbishop knew about the letter of apology from Bishop O'Mahony.

*** The following is the Irish Times article that I refer to:

Clergy exposed in Murphy 'must take responsibility'

Irish Times, Jan 30, 2010 by SIMON CARSWELL in Davos, Switzerland

THE ARCHBISHOP of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, has said the Catholic clergy and others associated with the cover-up of clerical child sex abuse, as exposed in the Murphy report, must accept general responsibility for their failure to protect children.

Dr Martin was responding to criticism of him by the former Dublin auxiliary bishop, Dr Dermot O'Mahony, who claimed in letters published this week that the archbishop had failed to support priests in the Dublin diocese following the publication of the report.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Dr Martin said that Dr O'Mahony had, like many others, not accepted accountability for the failings outlined in the report and that he "perpetuates this mistake by misquoting the report" in his correspondence.

"All I would like to see is people accept accountability and say, 'look this is what happened'. In that letter, there is a certain rejection of what happened - that this horrendous scandal and the cover- up never took place. This I don't accept," said Dr Martin.

Dr O'Mahony said suggestions that the clergy failed to take cognisance of the safety of children was "inaccurate and unjust". He said that "the acceptance by the media and current diocese policy that a cover-up took place must be challenged" in letters circulated to the council of priests.

People didn't want to admit that "we got it remarkably wrong", said Dr Martin, but this conclusion was justified and wider accountability must be accepted.

"People can criticise me but I believe that, for me, the reaction to the Murphy report must be predominant - something horrendous happened on our watch and we got it spectacularly wrong."

Dr O'Mahony criticised Dr Martin for being out of the Dublin diocese for 31 years and having "no idea" of the trauma of dealing with sex abuse allegations without protocols or guidelines.

"Nobody knows where they would have been," said Dr Martin. "However, it is again a case of blame everybody else, saying: 'Where were you, what would you have done?' "

Dr Martin said that it was "not easy" to determine where accountability lay, but it was wrong to deny general accountability and to blame "some impersonal systems failure".

The pope's decision to call the bishops to a meeting in Rome next month was "a sign of his concern" and "an unusual thing", Dr Martin added. "I am glad it is taking place."

Dr Martin, who attended Davos to participate in debates with academics and healthcare specialists, said that there were parallels between the crisis in the Church over the Murphy report and the global financial crisis, with a general lack of accountability common to both.

"We are identified by what we tolerated and our identity as an institution is measured by the things we allow happen, even if it happens in a way in which you cannot pin down specific responsibility," he said.

"I would say the same in the banks - it isn't necessarily that people were encouraging bankers to behave in an irresponsible way but it was tolerated and therefore that is part of the identity of the institution that does it."

Dr Martin said there was a certain collective responsibility that existed in allowing mistakes to be made but that no one individual was responsible.

"Something terrible happened in the diocese of Dublin - at least 2,000 children, I believe, were abused.

"The lives of their parents, their spouses, their children have been irrevocably damaged and changed and [ it is sad] that nobody is responsible, that it is a systems failure," he said.

"It doesn't mean that everybody has to go up and say that I alone am responsible, but it is not enough to say that the system was wrong."