Page last updated at 13:59 GMT, Monday, 30 November 2009

Abuse report 'turns to public trial'

Church candles
A letter reflecting on the abuse report was read to congregations

A Catholic bishop has said a "public trial" is taking place after the publication of a report on the Dublin diocese handling of child abuse.

Bishop Willie Walsh of Killaloe argued that calls for Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick to resign were based on a misreading of the Murphy report.

He said a "public trial" was taking place following the publication of that report on Thursday.

And he claimed that there was some desire to get "a head on a plate".

It follows calls for Bishop Murray to resign after he was criticised in the report on his church's handling of child abuse.

The report released on Thursday investigated how Church and state authorities handled allegations of child abuse against 46 priests made by 320 children. Eleven priests were convicted of sexual assaults on children.

Some offending priests were shifted from parish to parish, leaving them free to abuse again

But Bishop Walsh told RTE radio on Monday: "There has been gross misreading of the Dublin report in relation to Bishop Murray.

"I'm not sure I can say more."

"I'm quite uncomfortable with this kind of public trial."

"I'd have to ask: it it about healing of survivors or is it about some sort of desire that we need to get a head on a plate?"

The bishop has refused to back demands for senior clergy criticised in the report to stand down.

The Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin - the Murphy report - found that during his time as an auxiliary bishop in Dublin from 1982 to 1996, Bishop Murray handled a number of complaints badly and described his failure to investigate one allegation as "inexcusable".

On Sunday, amid mounting calls for him to step down, Bishop Murray insisted he never failed to act on any allegations of child abuse.

He said he would "be guided by the priests and people of the diocese" on whether he should resign.

However, Dromore bishop John McAreavey said he believed Bishop Murray had "serious questions to answer".

He told BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence: "All I can say is that any bishop today around whom there are serious questions in relation to the care and protection of children has serious questions to answer.

"I'm sure Bishop Murray is reflecting on that - I know that he has taken the view that he should remain but I think he will be thinking very seriously about that."

Dr McAreavey said he believed he would resign if faced with a similar challenge to his "ability to deal with these matters with credibility and integrity".

On Sunday, Bishop Murray told a congregation in Limerick city that the question of whether he should resign depended on whether priests and people in the diocese felt his presence was "a help or a hindrance".

William Crawley blogs on the church abuse scandal

In a letter read out at Masses throughout the Limerick Diocese at the weekend, he said: "As I look back on that time, I ask myself many questions, especially about the three cases in which the report criticises me.

"At no time did I, as an auxiliary bishop of Dublin, receive an allegation of sexual abuse and fail to act.

"When an allegation of sexual abuse of children by a priest was brought to my attention, I responded promptly and conscientiously and in each case notified the Archbishop and Diocesan authorities and co-operated fully with them.

"I never deliberately or knowingly sought to cover up or withhold information brought to my attention.

"There were, as the report notes, occasions when roles/responsibilities were not clear or where I did not have full information concerning cases in which I was asked to become involved."

Meanwhile, a statement expressing distress at clerical child abuse in Dublin has been read at some Masses in Northern Ireland at the weekend.

The statement said the heinous crimes against children described in the Murphy report were "appalling and distressing".

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