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Pressure Mounts on Murray to Resign Despite Letter of Support from Local Group

The Irish Times - Tuesday, December 1, 2009 by KATHRYN HAYES

BISHOP DONAL MURRAY: PRESSURE ON the Bishop of Limerick, Dr Donal Murray, to resign in the wake of the Dublin diocesan report continued to mount last night, despite a letter of support issued by a group of lay people and priests working in the diocese.

About 80 people attended a meeting in Limerick on Sunday to discuss his future, just hours after Dr Murray told Mass-goers at St Joseph’s Church that he would be guided by the priests and people of the diocese as to whether his presence was a “help or a hindrance”.

In a letter of support published yesterday and signed by eight people, claiming to represent the lay people and priests working in the diocese of Limerick who attended the meeting, the group said it would be “a retrograde step” for the continuing development of safeguarding children if Dr Murray stepped down.

“We are convinced from our experience of his 13 years as our bishop that Donal Murray is a good person. We have deep respect for and total confidence in his personal integrity, as well as his utter commitment to truth and justice. We believe him when he says, ‘I never deliberately or knowingly sought to cover up or withhold information brought to my attention’,” the letter says.

It continues: “We are grateful for the wholehearted way he has embraced and rigorously implemented in our diocese the national standards and guidelines for the safeguarding of children . . . We believe it would be a retrograde step for the continuing development of safeguarding children, in our diocese and society, for our bishop to resign.”

Despite this support, there were calls yesterday for Bishop Murray to step down. Limerick Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins said the bishop needed to resign in the interest of the Catholic Church.

“I’m a practising Catholic, I have a personal opinion and I also have a position as a public representative. My own personal opinion and certainly the views of the people I represent happens to be that he should resign from his position in order to move on and to allow the church to turn the corner on this sorry episode and to allow the church to regain and rebuild the confidence of the people,” Mr Collins said.

A poll in the online edition of the Limerick Leader newspaper asking if Dr Murray should remain in office showed support for the bishop at just 18 per cent yesterday, with 82 per cent of people voting in favour of his resignation.

Meanwhile, a professor of theology at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick came out in support of Dr Murray yesterday, asserting that what he called “scapegoating” the bishop would not help victims of abuse.

Fr Eamonn Conway, a priest of the Tuam diocese, said he believed many senior bishops had in recent days contributed to the impression that it was “ultimately a matter of public opinion and media pressure” as to whether bishops should resign.

“Regrettably, many bishops have not acknowledged that there has been corporate failure by them all and that the very manner in which the office of bishop on this island was and still is exercised, is in need of thorough scrutiny and review,” Fr Conway said.

According to Fr Conway, few bishops have yet recalled the “many exemplary ways” Dr Murray has served the church in almost 30 years and asked if resignation “would make it easier for the media circus to move on”.

“Not all mistakes made by bishops have received the full glare of publicity and not all bishops who have been rightly publicly criticised have acknowledged their failings as fully as Bishop Murray . . . I do not believe that scapegoating him now will ultimately serve the healing of victims or the healing of the Church.”

A spokesman for Dr Murray said that having given “serious consideration” to a range of requests from the media for interviews, the bishop “will concentrate over the coming days on taking guidance from the priests and people of the Limerick diocese as to whether his presence is a help or a hindrance to the diocese and, accordingly, will not be available for interview until further notice”.

An interview with the Limerick Leader , the result of a long-standing commitment, would be published this week, he continued.

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics on Sunday, Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea said he believed Dr Murray would make the “appropriate decision” over whether he should resign.

However, when asked yesterday on Newstalk radio whether the bishop should go, Mr O’Dea replied: “Not really.”

He had always thought of the bishop as “a very decent, honourable” person. “Every man must consider the situation for himself.”