Irish church: Pope accepts bishop's resignation

DUBLIN (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop over his role in covering up child abuse by Dublin priests, Irish Catholic officials said Wednesday.

Bishop James Moriarty in December offered his resignation after admitting he did not challenge the Dublin Archdiocese's past practice of concealing child-abuse complaints from police. He served as an auxiliary Dublin bishop from 1991 to 2002, then was promoted to his current position as bishop of the neighboring diocese of Kildare.

Two church officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Vatican is expected to make the formal announcement Thursday.

The Vatican also is expected to accept the December resignation offers of two auxiliary Dublin bishops, Eamonn Walsh and Ray Field, in coming weeks.

All three bishops were identified in an Irish government-ordered investigation published last year into decades of cover-ups of child-abusing clergy in the Dublin Archdiocese. The report found that all bishops until 1996 colluded to protect scores of pedophile priests from criminal prosecution.

The November report did not accuse Moriarty of any specific cover-ups. But the bishop offered his resignation after accepting he should have taken personal responsibility for challenging the bishops' practice of keeping abuse complaints within the church.

When Irish bishops were summoned to the Vatican in February for an extraordinary summit focused on the abuse scandals, Moriarty said he told the pope he hadn't initially planned to quit because he "was not directly criticized."

"However, renewal must begin with accepting responsibility for the past. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that we needed a new beginning and that I could play my part in opening the way," Moriarty told the pope, according to a transcript released by the bishop's office.

Another bishop who served in Dublin from 1997 to 2005, Martin Drennan, has rejected calls to resign from his current position as bishop in the western Irish city of Galway, arguing that the investigation did not find him guilty of any wrongdoing.

The Dublin Archdiocese report said bishops never reported sex crimes committed by priests to police until 1996, after the first abuse victims began going public with their lawsuits against the church. The report — which detailed the mishandling of allegations against 46 priests from 1975 onward — found that cover-ups continued until 2004 when a reform-minded Vatican diplomat, Diarmuid Martin, was appointed Dublin archbishop.