Pope Accepts Resignation of Leading Northern Irish Prelate

by Alexander Slavsky  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  March 28, 2018   

Bp. John McAreavey of Dromore resigns amid sex abuse scandal

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DROMORE, Northern Ireland (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis is accepting the resignation of a Northern Irish bishop over alleged mishandling of a sexually abusive priest.

The Holy Father announced Monday that he is accepting the resignation of Bp. McAreavey and appointing Bp. Philip Boyce, past bishop of Raphoe, Ireland, as the apostolic administrator of Dromore. Boyce is temporarily in charge of the diocese while the seat remains vacant.

Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore in County Down stepped down earlier this month after he received backlash for his association with Fr. Malachy Finnegan, accused of 12 claims of physical and emotional abuse of minors. McAreavey regretted offering the funeral Mass in 2002 for Finnegan.

"Today, I am writing my letter of resignation as bishop of Dromore to Pope Francis. I do so with a heavy heart. ... Following recent media coverage which has disturbed and upset many people, I decided on Thursday (March 1) to resign," Bp. McAreavey publicized in a statement to his diocese.
Boyce served as bishop of Raphoe between 1995 and last June when he stepped down after submitting a letter of resignation to the Holy Father in 2015 upon reaching the mandatory age of retirement, which is 75 years old.
Archbishop Eamon Martin, president of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference, issued a statement concerning Bp. McAreavey's resignation and Bp. Boyce's appointment:

I wish to acknowledge Bp. McAreavey's 19 years of service as a bishop. As president of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference, I thank him for his generous contribution in a wide variety of roles as a member of the Bishops' Conference during that time. ... My prayers also go to Bp. Philip Boyce as he begins his service as apostolic administrator of Dromore.

Martin also acknowledged the Church's past negligence regarding the cover-up of sexually abusive priests and insisted the commitment of Church leaders to safeguard children in the future:

Abp. Eamon Martin, primate of All Ireland

As the bishops stated following their spring 2018 general meeting earlier this month, the Church can never become complacent concerning the safeguarding of children. The Church is committed to both the review process of dioceses undertaken by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church and to cooperation with any inquiry required by statutory bodies.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) assembled a team to investigate the circumstances of abuse surrounding Finnegan, who worked at St. Colman's College in Newry as a teacher from 1967–76 and was president from 1976–87.

In a statement from Sunday, PSNI said they will do the following:

Establish and take action against any living offender from that time and, importantly, assess if there are any current child-safeguarding risks, determine if there was any other abuse of children committed by any other person, other than Fr. Finnegan, at St. Colman's College when Fr. Finnegan worked there.

Former Irish president Mary McAleese revealed this month that Finnegan "seriously, physically, sadistically abused" her youngest brother Clem Lanaghan during his years at St. Coleman's.

Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore in County Down stepped down earlier this month after he received backlash for his association with Fr. Malachy Finnegan, accused of 12 claims of physical and emotional abuse of minors.

A BBC Spotlight program on Finnegan was broadcast in February and included three interviews with his alleged victims.

Three more victims came forward to report abuse following the broadcast of the program. Parents and students also opposed McAreavey's decision to preside at children's confirmations while victims and politicians called for the bishop's resignation.
McAreavey described Finnegan's abusive behavior as "abhorrent, inexcusable and indefensible." Saint Colman's College ordered all photographs of the priest to be removed from campus while denouncing "in the strongest possible terms the physical, sexual and emotional abuse inflicted by Malachy Finnegan when he was in the employment of the college over 30 years ago."


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