Prelate Accused of Sexual Abuse Resigns

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Investigates

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BENIN CITY, Nigeria, JUNE 1, 2010 ( Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Archbishop Richard Burke of Benin City, who stepped down due to a failure to observe celibacy.

A Vatican communiqué announced Monday that the Pope accepted the resignation of Archbishop Burke, 61, a member of the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society, also known as the Kiltegan Fathers, who was serving in Africa.

Also on Monday, Archbishop Burke released a statement to The Irish Catholic newspaper, in which he affirmed, «The reason for my resignation is that I have been unfaithful to my oath of celibacy.»

«I am deeply ashamed of my behavior,» he stated. «I take full responsibility for my actions. I wish to express my deepest sorrow for my inappropriate, irresponsible and repeatedly sinful conduct.»

In January 2009 the prelate had been informed of an allegation of child sexual abuse that was brought against him. At that point he arranged to withdraw from his ministry in the archdiocese, following the guidelines of the missionary society in dealing with these cases.

Although the archbishop admits that he did have a sexual relationship with a young woman, beginning when she was 21 years old, he insisted that «I have never, ever, in my life — in any way — sexually abused a child.»

In his statement to The Irish Catholic, Archbishop Burke reported that he was «recently officially informed by the Society Leader of St Patrick’s Missionary Society that, following their investigations in Nigeria, no corroborating evidence was found to support the allegations of child sexual abuse made against me.»

Nonetheless, the prelate acknowledged his «entirely inappropriate behavior.»

He asked forgiveness of his friends and family, fellow missionaries, 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,» the archbishop concluded.

The Irish Catholic added that the case was taken over from the missionary society by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where it is still under investigation.

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