DUBLIN — Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has told priests that the Vatican has rejected the resignations of his two auxiliary bishops following their reported involvement in the Roman Catholic Church's cover-up of child abuse.
The Vatican's rebuff deals a blow to Martin, a veteran Vatican diplomat who was appointed in 2004 to lead Ireland's most populous diocese through a growing storm of child-abuse scandals. From the start he has clashed with predecessors who suppressed reports of child molestation and transferred abusive priests to new parishes in Ireland, Britain and the United States.
"Following the presentation of their resignations to Pope Benedict, it has been decided that Bishop Eamonn Walsh and Bishop Raymond Field will remain as auxiliary bishops," Martin said in a letter sent this week to priests and other Dublin church officials.
An Associated Press reporter saw a copy of the letter Wednesday. Aides to Martin confirmed the details of the letter. They said neither Martin nor the two auxiliaries were available to comment on the letter, which was a confidential church document and would not be published.
Analysts said the Vatican had sent a strong message to Martin not to criticize colleagues in public again.
"The Vatican were not impressed with the way Diarmuid Martin went on PrimeTime (an Irish television news program) and called on other bishops to be accountable," said Garry O'Sullivan, editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper in Dublin. "It's not the way business is done in Rome."
The letter said the two auxiliaries would be "assigned revised responsibilities within the diocese," but offered no specifics.
A Vatican spokesman refused to confirm that the resignations had been rejected or to offer reasons why bishops allegedly involved in covering up abuse would be kept in their posts.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi said it is the Vatican's policy to make public announcements only when resignations are accepted, not when they are rejected. He declined further comment.
An Irish government-authorized investigation into Dublin Archdiocese cover-ups published in November named more than a dozen current and former bishops as responsible for failing to tell police about more than 170 suspected pedophiles in the priesthood from the mid-1970s to mid-1990s.
Martin supported the state investigation by releasing thousands of previously secret church documents that demonstrated detailed church knowledge of crimes committed against several hundred Irish children. It found that Dublin church leaders began providing information to police only in 1995 – but continued to keep secret, until Martin's appointment in 2004, many files and other records of reported abuse.
The pope did accept the resignations of Donal Murray of Limerick and James Moriarty of Kildare, both of whom were former Dublin auxiliary bishops, and both of whom were criticized in the report. A third, Martin Drennan of Galway, has insisted he won't quit.
The two current Dublin auxiliaries, Walsh and Field, initially rejected criticisms but relented after failing to receive public backing from the outspoken Martin. Their resignation offers were read out to Dublin worshippers at Christmas Mass.
In their joint Christmas statement Walsh and Field said they hoped their resignations "may help to bring the peace and reconciliation of Jesus Christ to the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. We again apologize to them."
Victims groups said Wednesday they were disgusted, but not surprised, that the Vatican had decided to back Walsh and Field rather than Martin.
"All this abuse was covered up by successive Dublin archbishops and in the full knowledge of every auxiliary bishop until Martin's arrival. On those grounds, every single bishop involved in the governance of the Dublin Archdiocese until 2004 ought to have resigned by now," said Andrew Madden, a former altar boy who became the first Irish victim to go public with an abuse lawsuit against the church in 1995.
Walsh has been a Dublin auxiliary bishop since 1990, Field since 1997.
Martin's relations with his two deputies have reportedly frayed during the long wait for a verdict from the Vatican. Martin has not appeared publicly with the auxiliary bishops since December.
Benedict summoned Ireland's bishops to Rome in February to discuss the Dublin Archdiocese scandal. The following month the pope published an unprecedented pastoral letter to the Irish Catholic people that condemned the abusers, praised their victims – but studiously avoided any acknowledgment of hierarchy culpability in covering up crimes.
"So much was expected of the pontiff, and so little was delivered," said John Kelly, leader of an Irish pressure group called Survivors of Child Abuse, who was molested and beaten in a Catholic-run workhouse for boys.
"The pope said that priests and bishops needed to surrender themselves to the demands of justice. Here were two of many who did surrender themselves – and they've been refused," Kelly said. "That sends out a signal that there is to be no change, no closure for victims and no accountability."
Dublin Archdiocese report, http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB09000504
Associated Press Writer Alessandra Rizzo in Rome contributed to this report.