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Irish bishop quits over abuse row

DUBLIN, Republic of Ireland -- One of Ireland's highest-profile Roman Catholic bishops plans to formalise his resignation at the Vatican this week after admitting he didn't do enough to stop a paedophile priest in his diocese.

Brendan Comiskey, the Bishop of Ferns, announced his resignation on Monday following mounting criticism of the way he dealt with allegations of sex abuse against the Rev. Sean Fortune.

Comiskey said he tried but failed to control Fortune, who committed suicide in 1999 before his planned trial on 66 criminal charges of molesting and raping boys over nearly two decades.

"I found Father Fortune virtually impossible to deal with," Comiskey said. "I confronted him regularly; for a time I removed him from ministry. I sought professional advice in several quarters, I listened to criticisms and praises, I tried compassion and I tried firmness. Treatment was sought and arranged.

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"And yet I never managed to achieve any level of satisfactory outcome," he said, adding, "I should have adopted a more informed and more concerted effort in my dealings with him, and for this I ask forgiveness."

"The sexual abuse of children is deeply abhorrent to me," he said. "I apologize also to the families of victims and to all others who have been offended or hurt in different ways by Father Sean Fortune."

Church superiors accepted the resignation of the 66-year-old bishop, saying it reflected "deep human suffering, both of victims of abuse and of himself."

Cardinal Desmond Connell and Archbishop Sean Brady, Ireland's two senior Catholics, expressed their own "profound apologies" for the suffering caused by pedophile priests.

"The sexual abuse of children by priests is an especially grave and repugnant evil," Brady and Connell said in a statement. "It is a scandal which has evoked entirely justified outrage. The sexual abuse of children by priests is totally in conflict with the church's mission and with Christ's compassion and care for the young."

Pressure mounted on Comiskey after the BBC aired a documentary in March about Fortune's accusers. The program, to be broadcast Tuesday on Irish state television, blamed Comiskey for not doing enough, alleging he first heard of complaints against Fortune in the 1980s.

A full investigation into Fortune's activities was not made until a number of young men filed complaints with police in 1995. The program also accuses Fortune of driving four boys to commit suicide.

Fortune's victims said they wanted the Irish government to mount a wider inquiry and, potentially, to seek criminal charges against Comiskey and others who allegedly protected abusers.

Some politicians agreed, arguing Comiskey had long known about Fortune's perversions and done far too little.

One of Fortune's accusers, Colm O'Gorman, said he and five others would press ahead with a civil lawsuit naming Comiskey and Pope John Paul II as defendants.




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