Willie Walsh (bishop)

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Willie Walsh
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Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style Your Grace
Religious style Bishop
Posthumous style none

William (Willie) Walsh (born January 16, 1935) is an Irish Catholic prelate who is the bishop emeritus of Killaloe. He served as ordinary from 1995 until his retirement in 2010.


He is a native of Roscrea, Co. Tipperary and was born in 1935. He was educated at Corville National School, Roscrea and St Flannan's College, Ennis. He studied for the priesthood at St. Patrick's College, Maynooth and the Pontifical Irish College, Rome.

He was ordained priest in Rome in 1959, where he earned a JCD degree. After ordination he completed his studies in Canon Law at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. On his return to Ireland he taught for a year at Coláiste Einde, Galway and joined the staff of St Flannan's College, Ennis in 1963.

In 1988 he was appointed curate at Ennis Cathedral and became administrator there in 1990. He has been pastorally involved with ACCORD (formerly the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council) since its foundation in the Killaloe diocese. He has worked with Marriage Tribunals at diocesan, regional and national levels. He has pursued a lifelong interest in sport and has been involved in coaching hurling teams at colleges, club and county grades.

He succeeded as bishop of Killaloe on 2 October 1994 having served as Coadjutor Bishop of Killaloe from 21 June 1994 until he succeeded to the see.


Ordination of women[edit]

Bishop Walsh has openly challenged the Pope with regards to Vatican policy on a number of occasions, including in November 2009 on the subject on the papal ban of discussion on the ordination of women.[1]

Spirit of Vatican II[edit]

He is quoted as to saying that he wished to see "another Pope John XXIII", who invited discussion on controversial issues.[1]

Tridentine Mass[edit]

In a 2009 speech he said that he "lacks any enthusiasm for the Latin Mass".[2]


Although the Church maintains a consistent stance of opposition, Walsh has expressed polar emotions of sadness about the Catholic Church's attitudes to homosexuality.[2]

Divorced Catholics[edit]

He was reportedly critical of the Church's policy of refusing the Eucharist to couples who have remarried.[1]

Clerical celibacy[edit]

The insistence on priests remaining celibate also needed to be discussed, he said.[2]

Closed communion[edit]

On another occasion, he challenged the Church's rule of closed communion that almost completely excludes Protestants from its Eucharist. He has said that he has never suggested to Church of Ireland members that they were not welcome to receive the sacrament in his churches.[2]

Ryan Report[edit]

Referring to the Ryan report, he said it would be "a second injustice [in addition to the abuse of children] if the religious alone were singled out to carry all the blame. All adults share some responsibility (for what went on then), but they didn’t want to know."[2]

Murphy Report[edit]

After the release of the Murphy Report on 26 November 2009 Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray was heavily criticsed for his actions during his time as an Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin. Bishop Walsh, has said calls for the resignation of Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray were based on a "gross misreading" of the Murphy report on the Dublin diocese and warned against a desire "to get a head on a plate".[3]

Bishop Walsh said he was "quite uncomfortable with this kind of public trial. I’d have to ask, is it about healing for survivors or is it about the desire that we need to get a head on a plate?" He admitted in a radio[4] interview, that he hadn’t had time to examine the report in detail "but I do know, I do know for a fact, some of the interpretation put on that and being placed against Bishop Murray is a misreading of the report. I do know that from somebody who has read in detail the report and I am satisfied with that."[3][5]

On 8 December Bishop Walsh, said that the crisis in the Church was also a time of opportunity to remove what was wrong in the past. He added: "Every crisis is also an opportunity, an opportunity for serious change, to begin again, to renew our faith, our hope and indeed our love."[6]

Bishop Walsh wept openly after a parish priest declared the people’s love for him at the blessing and dedication of a new Adoration Chapel in Shannon. Fr Tom Ryan told Walsh "we love you", and thanked the bishop for his 15 years of inspirational leadership, not just in the diocese of Killaloe, but across the Irish Church.[6]

Bishop Walsh called on Cardinal Desmond Connell to issue a statement following the fallout from the Murphy report. On 26 November, the day the Murphy report was published, Cardinal Connell released “a personal statement” noting that it had been “severely critical of the diocesan response (to abuse allegations), particularly in my earlier years in office”. Cardinal Connell expressed his "distress and bewilderment" that priests could behave in such a way. He also wished "to express without reservation my bitter regret that failures on my part contributed to the suffering of victims in any form" and apologised to those hurt and asked forgiveness.[7]


In January 2010, Bishop Walsh celebrated his 75th birthday, and according to Canon Law submitted his resignation to the Congregation for Bishops, but is expected to remain as Bishop of the diocese until a replacement is appointed.

At a civic reception to honour his work as bishop of Killoe in March 2010, Bishop Walsh received a standing ovation and said that for all of Irish bishops, "it is a very difficult time, and all of us are at risk from possibly some mistake made anything from 20 to 50 years ago". Bishop Walsh added: "All of you councillors appreciate that your position can be hazardous when it comes around to election time and our own positions are hazardous for more serious and sad reasons at the moment." Reflecting on his time as bishop, Bishop Walsh said: "I found it a heavy responsibility but... tried to be open and honest and transparent at all times and I hope that I managed to get to the end of it." Dr Walsh said he was "very honoured and chuffed" to be granted the civic reception "in a town... that has given me so much". In a surprise for the bishop at the start of the reception, his colleagues in the over-70s Forever Young choir filed into the chamber and sang songs to honour the Tipperary man.[8]

On 18 May 2010, his resignation on the basis of age was accepted by Pope Benedict XVI and Fr Kieran O'Reilly, S.M.A. was named as the bishop of Killaloe.[9] The speed of the appointment is notable as it normally takes closer to a year to name a new diocesan ordinary.

Bishop Walsh published a book of memoirs called "No Crusader" (ISBN 9781782182535) in 2016.

Irish Times Interview, November 2010[edit]

On 6 November 2010 opinions were expressed by Bishop Walsh in an Irish Times interview conducted by journalist Kathy Sheridan. Walsh's expressed viewpoints on key issues such as homosexuality, birth control and family planning, the ordination of women as priests, celibacy within the priesthood and the existence of the afterlife.

Walsh asserts to have been “stunned” upon hearing about Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae encyclical, a document published to reaffirm traditional Roman Catholic teaching on family planning in 1968. “That was a watershed. Up to that time, I think, practically all Catholics accepted that, whether they disobeyed Catholic teaching or not, the teaching was right. It was there that the questioning began.”

"John"'s allegations[edit]

An anonymous complainant, "John" alleged that he had been raped by three priests, Fathers T, U and V, in the early 1980s, and had been told by Bishop Walsh in 2005 to report the incidents to the police. Walsh had paid "John" €20,000 personally, and €45,000 out of Killaloe diocesan funds in 2008-09, "though he never formally sought compensation", and promised to seek a further €30,000 from the diocese and the alleged offending priests in 2010. In the opinion of one journalist it was unclear to what extent Walsh felt sorry for "John", whom he described as "a decent person", or whether the money was paid to some extent as hush money.[10]

Walsh himself believed "John"'s story, saying that Father T was "the worst offender in that he started it. But the other two did worse". The three priests had been in the same class at the Maynooth seminary, and "John" alleged that his attempt to complain about them to the then College President, Micheál Ledwith, had been brushed off.[11] The 2005 McCullough Report had investigated and dismissed claims of homosexual behaviour at the College.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Michael Harty
Bishop of Killaloe
2 October 1994 – 18 May 2010
Succeeded by
Kieran O'Reilly