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(1) Walsh Claims Report 'Misread'

Irish Times November 30, 2009
The Bishop of Killaloe, Dr Willie Walsh, has said calls for the resignation of the Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray, are based on a “gross misreading” of certain parts of the Murphy report into clerical child abuse.

Bishop Murray has faced calls for his resignation after the report, published last week, described his handling of a particular allegation as “inexcusable”.

At a mass in Limerick yesterday, Bishop Murray told parishioners he would "be guided by the priests and people of the diocese” on whether he should resign.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland programme today, Dr Willie Walsh said he was uncomfortable with what he described as “the public trial” surrounding Bishop Murray.

“I’d have to ask, is it about the healing of survivors or is it about some sort of desire to get a head on a plate?” he said.

Bishop Walsh said while “an enormous injustice” had been done to victims of clerical abuse, the situation would not be helped “if we do injustice to other people involved”.

Asked if he thought Bishop Murray should resign, Dr Walsh said he was "not going to stand in judgment" over Bishop Murray, as "I am too well aware of my own frailty in this area, and I can't say I have never made a mistake in this area over the past 15 years.”

But he warned that some of the interpretation of the report's findings in relation to Bishop Murray represented a “misreading of the report”.

“I think if somebody is to be asked to stand down then I think the report needs to be studied properly and the facts ascertained,” he said.

“Bishop Murray has asked for time consult priests and the people of Limerick, and I think he should be given that time,” he said.

Speaking on RTÉ television’s The Week in Politics programme last night, Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea said of Bishop Murray that “he will make the appropriate decision”.

Asked if he believed Bishop Murray should resign, Mr O’Dea said “I know Donal Murray personally and I have always had a very good relationship with him, and I find him a decent man. I must say that I am bitterly disappointed to read what I have read in the Murphy report.”

Programme presenter Seán O’Rourke asked “. . . that he behaved inexcusably?” The Minister replied, “Yes, I am bitterly disappointed to read that finding. I am sure Donal Murray, who is a person who would think deeply about these things, is examining his situation at the moment and he will make the appropriate decision.”

Speaking at Mass in St Joseph’s Church in Limerick yesterday, Bishop Murray said: “There have as you know been calls for me to resign. As far as I am concerned the question of whether I should resign is a question of whether my presence here is a help or a hindrance to the diocese of Limerick.”

He continued: “In that matter I will be guided by the priests and people of the diocese. We have many bodies that represent groups and areas in the diocese – the priests’ council, the parish pastoral councils, the diocesan pastoral council, the pastoral areas of the diocese and the diocesan child protection committee. They guide me and advise me. And they will be guided and advised by you in your parishes and areas.”

(2) Bishop Warns Against Seeking 'Head On A Plate'

The Irish Times - Tuesday, December 1, 2009 by PATSY McGARRY Religious Affairs Correspondent

BISHOP MURRAY CONTROVERSY: BISHOP OF Killaloe Willie Walsh, has said calls for the resignation of Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray were based on a “gross misreading” of the Dublin diocesan report and warned against a desire “to get a head on a plate”.

Asked on RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland yesterday whether a bishop criticised in the report should consider resigning, Bishop Walsh said: “Yes, if it is true.”

He said: “But I do know at the moment there has been a gross misreading of the Dublin report in relation to Bishop Murray and there has been a very serious misreading of that. I appeal to people to, if they’re going to speak on that issue, to study very carefully exactly the terms of the Dublin report.”

He said he was “quite uncomfortable with this kind of public trial. I’d have to ask, is it about healing for survivors or is it about the desire that we need to get a head on a plate?” He hadn’t had time to examine the report in detail “but I do know, I do know for a fact, some of the interpretation put on that and being placed against Bishop Murray is a misreading of the report. I do know that from somebody who has read in detail the report and I am satisfied with that.”

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Bishop Walsh acted as a mediator in Limerick diocese in 2006 when a man who alleged clerical abuse took his own life two days after a meeting with representatives of the diocese. Peter McCloskey was 37 when he died on April 1st, 2006.

Mr McCloskey alleged he had been abused in 1980 and 1981 by Fr Denis Daly, a priest of the archdiocese of Sydney, then ministering in Limerick. In 2002, Mr McCloskey revealed his abuse to church authorities in Limerick. He wanted to know whether the diocese had reason to suspect Fr Daly (who died in 1987) might have been a danger to children.

The diocese discovered in 2003 that there was an extensive file on Fr Daly in Sydney. Included was a reference to the local police insisting he leave the territory for what was described as a “moral lapse”. This information was not passed to Mr McCloskey. Instead he was told the following year by the the child protection office of the Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth that they had no information on Fr Daly. When Mr McCloskey announced he was going to Sydney to investigate, diocesan officials agreed to a meet him.

According to those close to the case, he was told Bishop Murray had no legal liability; that any attempt to make the bishop responsible was unjust; that any proceedings would be struck out; and that he would be held liable for the diocese’s legal costs.

He was called a liar, told he suffered from false memory syndrome, and threatened. On April 23rd, 2006, following a meeting chaired by Bishop Willie Walsh and attended by Bishop Murray as well as the McCloskey family, Bishop Murray acknowledged that he “completely accepts the truth” of Peter McCloskey’s experience of clerical child sexual abuse.

(3) Bishop Failed to Protect Children

The Irish Times - Tuesday, December 1, 2009 by MARY RAFTERY

ANALYSIS: Bishop Donal Murray’s lack of action resulted in the destruction of many young lives

WHEN BISHOPS start talking about heads on plates you know it is the specific spectre of John the Baptist they seek to conjure up – the forces of vindictive secularism in the shape of wicked Herod and his wanton progeny hounding the saintly prophet to his doom.

Bishop Willie Walsh should know better. The head on a plate he referred to on radio yesterday morning is that of his fellow bishop Donal Murray, currently under siege for his mishandling of complaints of child sexual abuse by priests during the period up to 1996 during which Bishop Murray was an auxiliary bishop in the Dublin archdiocese.

Bishop Murray is no John the Baptist. He is a man whose lack of action resulted in the destruction of many young lives. His failure to protect children in no fewer than three dioceses from the sexual assaults of paedophile priest Thomas Naughton is not just “inexcusable”, as the Dublin report puts it, it is unconscionable.

In his quite shocking radio interview, Bishop Walsh stated that there had been “a gross misreading” of the Dublin diocesan report with regard to the role of Bishop Murray. He then added that he hadn’t read it himself, but that someone had told him this.

On this basis, he saw fit to address the nation, putting his own considerable reputation on the line for his colleague. He says we should look at the facts.

Well, they are as follows, all carefully documented contemporaneously and meticulously examined by the commission which compiled the Dublin diocesan report.

In 1983, two parishioners told Bishop Murray that local curate Fr Thomas Naughton was “too close to the altar boys”. The bishop told the commission that he interpreted this to mean that abuse might be involved, despite the lack of specifics in the complaint.

The investigation carried out by the parish priest found no case to answer, but is described by the commission as “totally inadequate even by the standards of the time”.

The following year, a woman approached Bishop Murray at Confirmations. She tried to tell him about Naughton. She told the commission that “he dismissed me and pretended he didn’t hear me, and walked away”. Bishop Murray told the commission that he did recall a women speaking to him after Confirmations, but claimed that “sexual assault was not mentioned”.

The commission’s view was that “Bishop Murray should have pursued the matter with the woman since he was already aware that there were some problems with Fr Naughton”. But the story does not end there. Fr Naughton was moved to Donnycarney parish, where he continued to destroy the lives of more children. The family of one of his victims, nine-year-old Mervyn Rundle complained. The commission states that “no attempt was made by Bishop Murray to revisit these concerns even after he became aware of Fr Naughton’s abusive behaviour in Donnycarney”. The commission adds that concerns about Naughton were at this stage known to “two archbishops and several auxiliary bishops and none of these men thought of revisiting the issue”.

After Donnycarney, Naughton was eventually moved to Ringsend. Here he found yet more new child victims to prey on. Again, neither Bishop Murray nor any of his fellow bishops thought to properly investigate the priest’s past. The commission variously describes the handling of complaints against Naughton by Bishop Murray as “very poor” and “unacceptable” and “inexcusable”. It adds that Bishop Murray (together with the other bishops) “let down those families who, because they were good Catholics, trusted the church to do something about this man [Naughton]”. It adds: “As a result, Fr Naughton was allowed to continue his abusive behaviour for several years thereby severely damaging more victims”. But why is there this concentration on the case of one priest?

The commission itself provides the answer: “Fr Naughton’s case is symptomatic of the Dublin archdiocese’s attitude to child sexual abuse in the 1980s. Until the problem became so great it could not be hidden, the archdiocesan procedure was to do all in its power to protect the wrongdoer, while almost completely ignoring the effect of this abuse on the victims . . . the welfare of the children was not addressed. As a result Fr Naughton was allowed to continue his abuse for several years. “This would not have happened if the archdiocese had fulfilled its duty to the children in the first instance.”

And then there is Bishop Murray’s behaviour in respect of Fr James McNamee, the notorious parish priest and sexual predator in Crumlin who built a swimming pool in his back garden to facilitate his access to young children. When complaints were made, this priest was finally removed from Crumlin. He was shifted to a convent in Delgany, Co Wicklow, where, however, none of the nuns was informed of the reason for his transfer and that he was a danger to children.

When it came to the attention of the archdiocese that McNamee was seen driving children around Delgany in his car, alarms bells rang. Bishop Murray went to the monastery in late 1994. According to the commission “he inquired with the superior as to Fr McNamee’s health and general well-being. He failed to mention to the superior the real purpose of his visit and the concerns which the archdiocese had in regard to Fr McNamee”.

When the bishop put it to McNamee himself that there had been some “things suggested about him” in relation to child abuse, the priest denied it vehemently saying it was all a conspiracy against him. The Dublin report states that “Bishop Murray accepted Fr McNamee’s denials that he had young people in the car. This was the extent of his inquiries”. The report adds that neither Archbishop Connell nor Bishop Murray “seemed to have given any consideration to the risk Fr McNamee might have posed to the altar boys attending the convent”.

And then there is the case of Fr Marius. The report is highly critical of Bishop Murray’s failure to put in place a proper monitoring system to protect children against this particular paedophile. The commission states that “it would appear that the only system . . . was one where Bishop Murray inquired from Fr Marius if he was behaving himself”.

These events took place during the 1990s, not in the distant past. The idea that calls for Bishop Murray to be accountable for his grotesque negligence constitute some form of scapegoating simply beggars belief.

Mary Raftery is a freelance journalist who, with reporter Mick Peelo, produced and directed the documentary Cardinal Secrets .

(4) An Abysmal Abdication of Responsibility

The Irish Times - Tuesday, December 1, 2009 by FINTAN O'TOOLE

OPINION: If Bishop Willie Walsh doesn’t get it, what hope is there for the rest of the institutional church?

BISHOP WILLIE Walsh is a very fine person. Over the years, he has been the most important voice within the Irish Catholic hierarchy for humility and openness. He was the first bishop to really understand the depth of the moral crisis caused by the church’s cover-up of child sexual abuse by clergy. He has since been the only bishop prepared to engage with the need for a radical transformation of the priesthood and of the power structures that made the cover-up not merely possible but inevitable.

This makes it all the more painful to have to ask a despairing question: if Willie Walsh doesn’t get it, what hope is there for the rest of the institutional church?

On Morning Ireland yesterday, a simple but extraordinary fact became clear: Bishop Walsh hasn’t read the report of the commission on child abuse within the Dublin diocese. It is deeply depressing that a man of his intellect and natural compassion reckoned that it was okay to go on national radio and chide other people for allegedly “grossly misreading” a report on such a fundamental issue when he himself had only the vaguest awareness of what it says.

The suspicion that Bishop Walsh has not read the report began to form pretty early in his interview with Cathal MacCoille when he claimed that its findings about his colleague, the Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray, were simply that “somebody said they were uncomfortable about [a priest’s behaviour] and when he investigated it, no allegation emerged”.

This is a rather startling interpretation of the report’s findings. Since those findings in relation to Bishop Murray are detailed elsewhere on this page, I’ll mention just one incident.

In 1994, after the Brendan Smyth affair had made it obvious to everyone how serious the whole issue was, Bishop Murray was sent to look into allegations that a known abuser, Fr James McNamee, then attached to a convent in Wicklow, had been seen with children in his car. Murray was, as the report puts it, “aware of his abusive past and that no monitoring system had been put in place in relation to him”. The full extent of his investigation was a chat with the abuser. Murray “in the course of a general conversation, asked [McNamee] whether he had any concerns about the recent scandals relating to child sexual abuse”.

He accepted McNamee’s denials that he had children in his car. Crucially, he did not tell the nuns in the convent about McNamee’s record as a paedophile. He did not, as the report concludes, seem “to have given any consideration to the risk Fr McNamee might have posed to the altar boys attending the convent”.

On Morning Ireland , Bishop Walsh appealed to anyone who was calling for Murray’s resignation, “if they’re going to speak on that issue to study very carefully exactly the terms of the Dublin report”.

This is a very proper request. Anyone who does as the bishop suggests will be left in no doubt that Donal Murray, in a number of cases, showed little or no concern for the safety of children. No objective reader will believe that Murray is the right person to be responsible for the safety of children as patron of Limerick’s Catholic primary schools.

How could Willie Walsh have decided otherwise? Because, even while urging anyone who wished to comment on Murray’s position to read the report, he clearly didn’t do so himself. Here are his own words: “I haven’t had time to examine it in detail but I do know for a fact that some of the interpretation being put on that against Bishop Murray is a misreading of the report. I do know that from someone who has read in detail the report and I’m satisfied with that.”

So Bishop Walsh knows “for a fact” that the report exonerates his colleague Bishop Murray because someone else who has actually read the document told him so. This is – and it genuinely pains me to say so – an abysmal abdication of moral responsibility. It beggars belief that a senior churchman would not actually read a report like this for himself.

It is mind-boggling that he would then admonish everyone else that they should not comment until they had done so. And it goes beyond the beyonds that he should then chide the rest of us for a “gross misreading” of a document that he has apparently encountered only at second hand.

The depressing thing about this behaviour is that it tells us that the mindset that made the hierarchy collectively such a menace to children has not changed.

There’s the double standard – you can’t comment until you’ve read the report in detail, but I can.

There’s the obfuscation – claiming that the only charge in relation to Murray was in relation to something about which “no allegation emerged”.

And there’s the institutional defensiveness – protecting a colleague is more important than actually engaging with the findings of the report. When this stuff comes from one of the few bishops to offer real hope of change, where can Catholics look for leadership?


(5) Crisis Affords Chance to Remove Ills of Past, says Walsh

The Irish Times - Wednesday, December 9, 2009 by GORDON DEEGAN

Bishop Willie Walsh (left) and Fr Tom Ryan at the dedication of the Adoration Chapel yesterday. Photograph: Brian Arthur/Press 22.Bishop Willie Walsh (left) and Fr Tom Ryan at the dedication of the Adoration Chapel yesterday. Photograph: Brian Arthur/Press 22.

BISHOP'S VIEWS: THE BISHOP of Killaloe, Dr Willie Walsh, said yesterday that the crisis in the Church was also a time of opportunity to remove what was wrong in the past.

Speaking ahead of today’s winter general meeting of the Bishops’ Conference, Dr Walsh said in Shannon that the bishops attending the meeting will be going there “in a very humble and repentant spirit and hope and pray that we can in some way touch the hearts of those who have been so hurt over the years”.

He said: “Whatever our failures have been in the past, I think all of us are going into that meeting in that spirit, that we need to get back to the values and teachings and example of Jesus Christ.”

He said there was an “opportunity to remove whatever was wrong in the past . . . Whatever price it takes, we want to remove all of that – whatever it takes to bring the real spirit of Christ . . . to bring that back, to bring back truth, justice, compassion and love”.

He added: “Every crisis is also an opportunity, an opportunity for serious change, to begin again, to renew our faith, our hope and indeed our love.”

Dr Walsh also publicly apologised again for remarks he made on RTÉ radio last week where he warned against a desire for “a head on a plate” concerning calls for the resignation of Bishop of Limerick Dr Donal Murray.

“I’m very conscious that last week, I made ill-chosen words in a radio interview which caused deep hurt,” he said.

He added: “I have no hesitation in apologising for that hurt. The very last thing that anyone would want is to add to the hurt, the deep hurt of survivors of sexual abuse.”

Yesterday, Bishop Walsh wept openly after a parish priest declared the people’s love for him at the blessing and dedication of a new Adoration Chapel in Shannon. Fr Tom Ryan told Dr Walsh “we love you”, and thanked the bishop for his 15 years of inspirational leadership, not just in the diocese of Killaloe, but across the Irish church.

The packed church responded with sustained applause for Dr Walsh. Fr Ryan recalled being a student in Galway during Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1979. Addressing Dr Walsh at the end of the Mass, he said: “The Pope told us in the early morning ‘young people of Ireland, I love you’ and I would sincerely say with the greatest respect to you, ‘Bishop Willie we love you here too’. ”

Dr Walsh is due to retire as bishop next year. Fr Ryan told him: “This is your 50th year of ordination and you truly have been an inspiring leader, not just to the Killaloe diocese, but to the Irish church and may you continue to do so for many years to come.”

The new church is the first new church in the Diocese of Killaloe this century and was built at a cost of €250,000 by SkyCourt, the developers of SkyCourt shopping centre in Shannon.

Dr Walsh said that the timing of the opening of the new church was significant as he said “in recent years and above all in recent days has shown our church to be in deep crisis”.