Child sex storm hits Irish Catholic head
By Michael Roddy
DUBLIN (Reuters) -
Pressure is mounting for Ireland's Roman Catholic Cardinal Desmond Connell to resign over clerical sex abuse scandals, as a parish priest urged him to follow the example of Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law.
However, Connell, who has been under fire for his handling of clerical sex abuse issues in Ireland, won support on Monday from the head of the Dublin Diocese Council of Priests, who called on him to stay.
Law resigned last week after documents revealed officials in Boston had reassigned priests accused of molesting children, without alerting parishioners.
Similar accusations of shielding abusive priests have also hit senior Catholic figures in England and Ireland in a multi-national scandal which has grown relentlessly over the past year.
The Belfast-based Irish News carried a letter from Father Patrick McCafferty on Monday calling on Connell to stand down.
McCafferty later told BBC radio that Connell, like Cardinal Law, had no business staying in office.
"These men like Bernard Law -- whoever they are, wherever they are -- 'get out,' because you are not fit to lead the people of God; you are not fit for office," he told the BBC.
"Get out, take his example and get out."
Ireland has cases of alleged sex abuse by clerics which date back to the 1970s.
An opinion poll last month found that 90 percent of people in this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country felt the church had been damaged by the revelations of clerical sex abuse.
Connell, spiritual head of the Dublin diocese, Ireland's largest, did not immediately respond to McCafferty, whom the Irish News said was the first priest from the island of Ireland to make such a call in public.
But Father Martin Cosgrove, chairman of the diocesan council of priests, said in a statement that he "emphatically rejects calls for the resignation of Cardinal Connell".
"Whilst he himself has been the first to acknowledge mistakes made in the past and the suffering of all those concerned, we recognise how proactive he has been in addressing this grave and complex problem," Cosgrove said. He mentioned that Connell set up a panel to advise on the issue in 1996.
But Connell, 76, has admitted he failed to deal decisively with paedophile priests whose activities in Ireland have been shown to be rampant and has apologised to victims.
"I deeply regret the mistakes I have made in coming to grips with the problem," he said in a statement last October.
That statement was issued after an Irish television documentary showed that at least six bishops in Dublin were aware of eight abusive priests and did nothing about them.
In April, Brendan Comiskey, the Bishop of Ferns in southern Ireland, was forced to resign after a similar documentary showed he had long known of the activities of an abusive priest, Father Sean Fortune.
Fortune committed suicide after he was charged with multiple sex offences.
McCafferty, from Lisburn, near Belfast, said in the Irish News that the church had shown "wicked contempt" for victims of clerical sex abuse.
But an organisation representing victims of clerical sex abuse said Connell's resignation would serve no end.
"My view is his resignation serves absolutely no purpose other than to remove a management difficulty for the church," said Colm O'Gorman of the victims' group One in Four.
"I don't see how resignation moves the issue on in terms of bring any sort of closure," he added
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