Irish priest resigns over sexual abuse

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June 1, 2010 08:24AM

(Picture:   The Pope has accepted the resignation of Tipperary-born Archbishop Richard Burke, a member of the St Patrick’s Missionary Society and Archbishop of Benin City, Nigeria.) 

Nigeria is not left out of the wave of child sexual abuse sweeping across the Catholic Church worldwide, as a serving Irish Bishop and Archbishop of Benin City, Richard Burke, yesterday resigned over child sexual abuse he allegedly committed while serving as a priest in the Warri Diocese.

 According to the Irish Catholic website, the Pope accepted the resignation of the Tipperary-born Archbishop, on Monday, saying “the reason for his resignation was his failure to observe his vow of celibacy.”

 Mr. Burke of the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society, had initially relegated his office as Archbishop of Benin by stepping down in early 2009, after an allegation of child sexual abuse, which he denied. The allegation was by one Dolores Atwood, (a woman) who claimed she was sexually abused by Mr. Burke when she was 14 years old, while the Archbishop was serving as a priest in the Warri Diocese of the church.

 Acceptance of guilt

 According to the website, Mr. Burke admitted having a sexual relationship with Mrs. Atwood but claimed adamantly that “she was over 18.” An investigation into the abuse claims by the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society, according to a statement released yesterday, “found no evidence to corroborate the allegation of child sexual abuse.”

 “The case has now been taken over by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and is still with that department of the Vatican,” the statement read.

 In his resignation statement addressed to the Pope, Mr. Burke apologised for the “pain and hurt” he has caused Mrs. Atwood, who is now based in Canada, and her family, stating that “she and I had a caring relationship that began in the latter part of 1989, when she was 21 and I was 40. I was posted back to Ireland in March 1990, and returned to Nigeria in April 1996.”

 The embattled bishop further described the sexual escapades he had with Mrs. Atwood as against the Catholic’s celibacy doctrine, stating that “in the last 20 years, Mrs. Atwood and I met on seven occasions. On three of those occasions, our relationship was again expressed sexually. This was entirely inappropriate behaviour and it is something for which I am truly sorry,” he expressed in the statement to the Vatican.

 “I apologise to my family, to my relatives, to my friends, and to my fellow members of St Patrick’s Missionary Society. I also ask the forgiveness of the people, religious and clergy of the Diocese of Warri and the Archdiocese of Benin City. I am very aware that I have hurt many people and I ask their forgiveness and prayers,” he said.

 The Catholic Church has being under immense attack, with Pope Benedict XVI coming under pressure for concealing some of the alleged abuses.

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