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DUBLIN – Ireland’s Catholic bishops privately debated Wednesday whether any of their number should resign in the wake of a damning investigation that blamed five of them for helping conceal child abuse by Dublin-based priests. Two of the bishops said they had done nothing wrong and would not step aside.
Irish Cardinal Sean Brady, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and the Vatican’s representative to Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, gathered about 30 bishops at Maynooth, the only remaining Catholic seminary in the Republic of Ireland.
They spent the day discussing the fallout from last week’s Dublin Archdiocese report into decades of child abuse by priests. The 720-page report found that dozens of church leaders in Ireland’s most populous diocese kept secret the record of child abuse by more than 170 clerics since 1940.
Police and social workers charged with stopping child abuse didn’t start getting cooperation from the church until 1995. This opened the floodgates to thousands of abuse complaints expected to cost the Dublin Archdiocese euro20 million ($30 million).
Brady, Martin and Leanza said they would travel to Rome for discussions Friday with Pope Benedict XVI, who alone wields the power to hire and fire bishops.
Martin – who is widely seen as the key church figure demanding reform and openness following decades of illegal cover-ups – said he has already received replies to his private letters to several bishops, past and present, who were faulted in the Dublin Archdiocese probe. He wouldn’t reveal whether any bishops were contemplating resignation, emphasizing that no announcements were likely until after the talks in Rome.
Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick, who is widely expected to resign soon after being heavily criticized by investigators, did not attend Wednesday’s talks. Murray, a former assistant bishop in Dublin, has already traveled to Rome.
The government-commissioned investigation identified four other serving bishops and five retired bishops, including Cardinal Desmond Connell, as playing a role in the decades of cover-up.
Two of those serving bishops, Martin Drennan of Galway and Eamonn Walsh of Dublin, said Wednesday they had no intention of quitting.
“I don’t feel I have any questions to answer… I don’t feel affected by it. I don’t feel disturbed by it,” Drennan said.
“If I’d done any wrong, I’d be gone,” said Walsh, who is one of Martin’s deputies in the capital.
The Vatican has been harshly criticized in Ireland for failing to answer letters from the Dublin Archdiocese investigators. Leanza, the pope’s representative in Dublin, issued a belated apology Tuesday after being summoned to a meeting with Foreign Minister Micheal Martin.
“If there was any mistake from our side we always apologize for this,” Leanza said afterward.
Leanza said he didn’t reply to the investigators’ letters requesting Vatican documents because he believed that the communications required no response. “No one would like to cover up. It is much better that what has been wrong emerges,” he said.
Brady and Martin have declined to call directly for colleagues to resign if they shielded child-abusing priests from police. But both churchmen have stressed they personally would have quit if implicated in that crime.
A government-funded compensation board has paid out more than euro900 million ($1.25 billion) to about 12,000 people worldwide who were abused in Ireland’s church-run facilities for children since the 1930s. At least 2,000 more complaints are awaiting settlement.
In May, a 2,600-page report into that scandal concluded that Catholic orders of nuns, priests and brothers who ran state-funded orphanages, workhouses and reformatories for Ireland’s poorest children were guilty of shielding hundreds, if not thousands, of known abusers within their ranks. Crimes documented included ritual beatings, rape, and lying to children that their parents were dead. The last of those church-run facilities closed in the 1990s.
No official from any of the 19 Catholic orders has resigned following May’s report. But some of those orders, under government pressure, have increased their financial offers to their victims. The Sisters of Mercy nuns, who ran five children’s institutions, last week offered euro20 million in cash and euro108 million in property to the government, charities and victims groups.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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