01 October 2013
File photo of Pope Francis
William Lee, the Bishop of the diocese of Waterford and Lismore in southern Ireland, was relieved of his functions under the Code of Canon Law, which covers serious offenses, the Vatican said in a statement Tuesday.
In 2010, Bishop Lee admitted that his response to child abuse allegations by an Irish clergy in the mid-1990s had been seriously inadequate, the Vatican said.
The bishop was ordained a priest in 1966.
The Vatican has recently come under the spotlight over accusations that it had sealed sexual abuse of children by priests to protect pedophiles and its own reputation.
Hundreds of cases have mushroomed in Europe and the United States during recent years.
Sexual abuses in the Catholic Church arose in the 1980s and hit a major crisis in 2002 when systematic cover-ups were exposed.
This is while the new pope faces a surmounting range of problems including sex abuse allegations, squabbling within the Vatican and the threat of secularism.
Long-serving bishop resigns on health grounds
01 October 2013
ONE of Ireland’s longest serving bishops has resigned on health grounds.
The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Dr William Lee (71), confirmed his resignation today (Tuesday) after saying he had no alternative given a serious illness he has been battling for the past two years.
Dr Lee, a native of Tipperary, has been bishop of Waterford diocese for 20 years and is regarded within the Church as one of its most accomplished administrators.
In a short statement, Dr Lee said his health left him with no option but to retire.
“In July 2011 I was diagnosed with serious illness and, since diagnosis, I have been under medical care,” he said.
“This has impacted greatly on my health and ministry. Recently the medical advice to me has been that, in the interests of my health, I should retire from the office of Bishop of Waterford and Lismore.”
Dr Lee said that he found the decision to retire very difficult as, despite his demanding diagnosis, he had hoped to continue in office.
He submitted his letter of resignation to Pope Francis I and the Vatican has now indicated that the resignation has been accepted.
“It is with reluctance and sadness that I have come to this decision to retire as I have been very happy and blessed amongst you the priests, religious and people of the diocese,” he added.
“It was a great privilege for me to be your Bishop. I have been ministering in that capacity for just over twenty years since I was ordained on 25 July 1993. It is a long time and you have been very patient with my shortcomings. My years as Bishop have been so fulfilling and, as well, very challenging.”
Dr Lee’s departure accelerates the total overhaul of the Church’s diocesan administration with eight other dioceses either securing or about to secure new bishops.
New bishops have already been installed in Cloyne, Kerry and Limerick.
Irish Bishop Quits After Mishandling Sex Case
Dr William Lee, who admitted that the way in which he dealt with abuse allegations was seriously inadequate, resigns.
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Dr Lee apologised for two-year delay in telling police of abuse claims
The Pope has accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop who admitted to mishandling sex abuse allegations, although the cleric said he was quitting due to poor health.
In a statement, Dr William Lee, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, said he had stepped down on health grounds, making no mention of the abuse claims.
The Holy See said in a brief statement that Dr Lee was relieved of his functions under paragraph 2 of article 401 of the Code of Canon Law, which covers both serious offences, and resignations due to ill-health.
Dr Lee has previously admitted that how he dealt with abuse allegations against one of his priests in the mid-1990s was “seriously inadequate”.
He apologised in 2010 for waiting two years before notifying Irish police.
In a statement at the time he said he “particularly regretted” that he had not sought the “immediate withdrawal” of the priest from all ministry.
Following allegations being made in 1993, Dr Lee moved the priest to a new ministry as part of “ongoing diocesan changes”, but did not tell his new colleagues about the accusations of abuse.
Dr Lee said that in October 1995, after benefiting from advice on child protection, he reported the priest to police.
In his resignation statement, Bishop Lee said failing health was his sole reason for leaving.
“As you are aware in July 2011 I was diagnosed with serious illness and, since diagnosis, I have been under medical care,” he said.
“Recently the medical advice to me has been that, in the interests of my health, I should retire from the office of Bishop of Waterford and Lismore,” he added.
“Accordingly, I have in the past few weeks submitted my letter of resignation as Bishop of Waterford and Lismore to Pope Francis. The Holy Father has considered my request and graciously accepted my resignation.”
The Catholic Church has been rocked by a string of official reports into child sex abuse stretching back decades, and on Church leaders’ complicity in covering it up.