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Irish bishop criticised for lax response to abuse allegations

By on Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Bishop John Magee meets Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 (CNS photo)

Bishop John Magee meets Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 (CNS photo)

A judicial report into the handling of allegations of child sexual abuse against clerics in the Diocese of Cloyne has concluded that the Church’s own guidelines were “not fully or consistently implemented” in the diocese as recently as 2008.

The report, released by Judge Yvonne Murphy, also said Cloyne Bishop John Magee admitted to what has been described as inappropriate behaviour with a young man. It said the bishop embraced him, kissed him and told the young aspirant for the priesthood that he loved him.

The 400-page report also records for the first time stark disagreement among Irish bishops over whether Bishop Magee – a former secretary to three popes – should quit as bishop of Cloyne after December 2008, when the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church said he was using child safeguarding policies that were “inadequate and, in some respects, dangerous”.

At an emergency meeting of the Irish bishops’ conference in January 2009, just weeks after the report critical of Bishop Magee, “there were strong opinions on both sides” as to whether the bishop should quit.

“The strongest argument in favour of resignation was made by Archbishop [Diarmuid] Martin” of Dublin, the report said. At the time, Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, emphatically insisted that Bishop Magee should not go despite the latter having admitted to the inappropriate behaviour with the young man in question.

The commission was charged with investigating the handling of allegations made against 19 priests from 1996 – when the Church in Ireland first implemented child protection procedures – to 2009. The commission found that “the primary responsibility for the failure to implement the agreed procedures lies with Bishop Magee”.

“It is a remarkable fact,” the report notes, “that Bishop Magee took little or no active interest in the management of clerical child sexual abuse cases until 2008.”

The commission accuses the Vatican of being “entirely unhelpful” to bishops who wanted to fully implement the agreed guidelines.

In particular, the report referred to a letter from the apostolic nuncio to Ireland a year after the 1996 guidelines were introduced in which he informed bishops that the Holy See was refusing to grant the document Vatican approval. The Congregation for Clergy, the letter noted, insisted that the guidelines were not in conformity with canon law.

“There can be no doubt that this letter greatly strengthened the position of those in the Church in Ireland who did not approve of the framework document as it effectively cautioned them against implementation.

“This effectively gave individual Irish bishops the freedom to ignore the procedures which they had agreed and gave comfort and support to those who … dissented from the stated official Irish Church position.”

The report is highly critical of the Cloyne vicar general, Mgr Denis O’Callaghan, who, it notes, “did not approve of the requirement to report [allegations] to the civil authorities”.

The commission notes that “one of the ironies of Mgr O’Callaghan’s position is that it was clear from his evidence that, in most cases, he believed the complaints, which make his failure to implement his own Church’s policy all the more surprising.

“He also displayed some inexplicable failures to recognise child sexual abuse,” the report adds.

The report says allegations of abuse and concerns about inappropriate behaviour were raised against nearly eight per cent of priests serving in the diocese. One priest of the diocese has been convicted while another was successful in having his trial halted because of his age. One chapter of the report is heavily redacted because the cleric involved is currently before the courts.

Regarding canon law, the commission found that there was a “haphazard and sometimes sloppy” approach to canonical investigations.

On a positive note, the commission concludes that “there was no case in which the Diocese of Cloyne moved priests against whom allegations had been made to another parish or out of the diocese altogether”.

Cloyne was also criticised for its failure to properly record and maintain information about complaints of child sexual abuse until 2008.

The diocese drew attention in 2008 when social service authorities expressed concern to the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church that Bishop Magee was not following the Church’s own child safeguarding guidelines properly.

Initially, Bishop Magee resisted calls to resign and pledged to assist the investigation. However, in March 2009 the Vatican announced the appointment of an apostolic administrator – at Bishop Magee’s request – and said Bishop Magee would no longer exercise power of governance but would retain the title of bishop of Cloyne. In March 2010, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI had accepted Bishop Magee’s resignation.

Three of Ireland’s 26 Catholic dioceses have now been subject to judicial inquiries that have severely criticised Church leaders and found that the reputation of priests and the Church and the avoidance of scandal were put ahead of the rights of children to be protected from abuse.

A high-profile team of senior prelates recently concluded the first phase of an apostolic visitation of the church in Ireland at the request of Pope Benedict. The Pope announced the move in a March 2010 letter to the Catholics of Ireland in which he repeated his shame and sorrow at the abuse and the subsequent mishandling of cases and warned Irish bishops that their failures had “obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree that not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing”.

In May, the head of the safeguarding children board, Ian Elliott, admitted that he had consider resigning over what he described as a lack of co-operation from senior Church leaders in Ireland to his auditing of dioceses handling of allegations. Bishops had withdrawn from the auditing process, citing data protection concerns. However, all dioceses are now co-operating according to the board, and the body expects to complete the audits in the coming year.

  • Disappointed

    “Homosexuality is incompatible with the priestly vocation. Otherwise,
    celibacy itself would lose its meaning as a renunciation. It would be
    extremely dangerous if celibacy became a sort of pretext for bringing
    people into the priesthood who don’t want to get married anyway. For, in
    the end, their attitude toward man and woman is somehow distorted, off
    center, and, in any case, is not within the direction of creation of
    which we have spoken. The Congregation for Education issued a decision a
    few years ago to the effect that homosexual candidates cannot become
    priests because their sexual orientation estranges them from the proper
    sense of paternity, from the intrinsic nature of priestly being … The
    greatest attention is needed here in order to prevent the intrusion of
    this kind of ambiguity and to head off a situation where the celibacy of
    priests would practically end up being identified with the tendency to
    homosexuality.”

    – Pope Benedict XVI, “Light of the World”

  • Harper

    This is truly shocking. As pointed out elsewhere, this same Bishop Magee was determined to Star-Trek his Gothic cathedral. As in the case of the much more scandalous Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, an episcopal determination to vandalise/”reorder” his cathedral often proves to be a warning sign. Fortunately, the laity of Cobh were even more determined to fight +Magee through the secular planning board to secure their cathedral. When there is a loss of a sense of the sacred in our churches, a loss of a sense of the sacred in our private lives is not long in following.

  • AgingPapist

    So, why is the primate in Armagh still in office?  All the bishops should have been tried by the courts, the Church patrimony seized by the state, sold, and the cash given to the victims.  Venal bishops and priests with an indolent laity refusing to face facts leads one to have a healthy respect for Oliver Cromwell.

    What did he know about the Church in Ireland nobody else knew? 

  • AgingPapist

    No bishop or archbishop should ever be in a position to decide on his own what to do or not to do about his cathedral.  In the Church of England and the Anglican Communion in general (not to mention other Protestant churches) the bishop ALONE has no  such power, nor should he.

    The time has long past for the popular election of all bishops by the people (men and women), priests, and deacons,  and their personnel decisions and expenditures subject to strict popular review and approval. Bishops should be made to resign after 12 years.  Yes, a fixed term of office of 12 years which would apply to the pope himself. 

  • Fr Thomas Poovathinkal

    WITH THE GREATEST URGENCY THE CATHOLICS OF THE  Diocese of Cloyne SHOULD GET THEMSELVES UNITED AND  WRITE TO POPE BENEDICT XVI WITH THE SIGNATURES OF AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE TO DEMOTE  Bishop John Magee a man of SUCH IMMORAL CHARACTER AND DIVEST HIM OF THE  SACRED OFFICE OF A BISHOP.

    IN THIS  WORK  THE YOUNG SHOULD BE GIVEN THE INITIATIVE AND ENCOURAGEMENT TO URGE THE POPE TO INITIATE ACTION. THIS BISHOP SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO REMAIN EVEN AS A PRIEST.

    IT WILL BE AN EXAMPLE FOR CATHOLICS OF OTHER DIOCESES,  WHERE THERE ARE IMMORAL MEN AS THEIR PASTORS,  TO TAKE  SIMILAR ACTION ACTION.

    Fr.Thomas Poovathinkal

  • Fr Thomas Poovathinkal

    ANY PERSON WHO WOULD LIMIT THE TERM OF OFFICE OF THE REPRESENTATIVES OF CHRIST ON EARTH HAS NO SENSE OF THE SACRED. MUST HAVE GONE WRONG SOMEWHERE.

    SIMILARLY ANY ONE DREAMING OF MARRIED CLERGY IN THE CHURCH TOO………..
    LET SUCH PEOPLE, IF THEY ARE OPEN TO TRUTH AND PROPRIETY, GO AND LEARN WHAT JESUS DID IN CHOOSING HIS TWELVE AND HOW HE DID IT. LET THE SAME UNDERSTANDING, AND PROCEDURE BE THERE IN THE SELECTION OF CANDIDATES FOR PRIESTHOOD.
     

    GETTING ONLY YOUNG PEOPLE WHO HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE OR EXPERIENCE OF  WHAT IS LIFE, MARRIAGE, SEX ETC. IS INSURING IMMORALITY OF ALL SORTS IN THE CHURCH.
     

    IN THIS MATTER OF SELECTION OF PEOPLE FOR PRIESTHOOD IF WE FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST THE LORD, WE SHALL HAVE NOT ONLY PRIESTS WHO PERFORM THE RITUALS IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE BUT THEY WILL ALSO PREACH THE WORD OF CHRIST IN THE SPIRIT OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES.
     

    LET US REMEMBER PREACHING THE WORD IN THE APOSTLIC SPIRIT, THE HOLY SPIRIT, WILL ONLY BUILD UP  TRUE CHRISTIAN FAITH. CONTRIBUTION TOWARDS THIS FROM THE SACRAMENTS ARE SECONDARY AND DEPENDENT ON THE PREACHING AND TEACHING OF THE WORD OF GOD. THE SACRAMENTS ARE SACRAMENTS BECAUSE OF THE WORD OF GOD AND NOT THE OTHER WAY ROUND. EVEN THE BODY AND BLOOD OF THE LORD BECOME SUCH BECAUSE OF THE WORD OF GOD. THUS THE WORD OF GOD IS FOUNDATIONAL.

    Fr Thomas Poovathinkal

  • Harper

    Before the1960s no bishop or prelate had any authority to change fundamentally the architecture of his cathedral. Vatican II demoted the pope and ordinary priests and elevated bishops, some of whom wanted to be popes in their own dioceses, a baneful trend which thankfully now is being reversed.

  • Tiggy

    I could not agree more. It is 90% of what has the Church in the mess it is in.

  • Tiggy

    Oh I think you probably always did have a “healty respect” for Cromwell. Before any of this mess.

  • Charles Martel

    AgingProtestant’s mask slips again! Elections for bishop! Surely you should be writing for the Protestant Herald, old chap – your talents are wasted here.

  • Charles Martel

    Shock news – AgingProtestant declares his respect for Cromwell, the persecutor of Catholics!

  • AgingPapist

    ANY PERSON WHO WOULD LIMIT THE TERM OF OFFICE OF THE REPRESENTATIVES OF CHRIST ON EARTH HAS NO SENSE OF THE SACRED
    ————————————————————————————————————————————————-
    Nonsense. You are an excellent example of clergy who should have limited terms of service. If bishops can be made to resign at 75, the people can and should remove the likes of you, popes,  any pastor, and any bishop.

  • AgingPapist

    The pope himself should resign and if he doesn’t the Irish government should put out a warrant for this arrest for crimes against humanity and obstruction of justice.  Benedict is going to end up before The Hague. It can’t happen soon enough.  He needs to take the Irish hierarchy with him with the exception of the archbishop of Dublin.

  • Anonymous

    What right have you to decide that? You ask the Pope to resign his post despite the fact that he has commited no abuse himself and, given that most Protestant Churches have now allowed for the murder of infants in some circumstances as well as a whole list of other things contrary to God’s law, both them and every single secular government that exits and has allowed such things should be at the block before the men of Rome. Such abuse was wrong, I admit, but I would beg you to observe the heresies stalking the world today; then tell us all that the Catholic Church is any worse than any of these.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t help wondering what makes you so bitter against the Catholic Church. Perhaps you should spend less time blogging and more on honest personal soul searching to get to the real source of your misery. Something is making you very angry and unhappy. Time to face up to it!

  • Parasum

    “GETTING ONLY YOUNG PEOPLE WHO HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE OR EXPERIENCE OF 
    WHAT IS LIFE, MARRIAGE, SEX ETC. IS INSURING IMMORALITY OF ALL SORTS IN
    THE CHURCH.”

    Which is a good reason for not having junior seminaries; for allowing priests to marry; for ordaining only those who have “experience of life…etc.” If inexperienced teenagers hadn’t been shut up in seminaries for six years, then been ordained to the priesthood, they might not have been so inadequate at taking personal responsibility or been so inadequately prepared for living in a very difficult & confusing world.

  • Parasum

    AgingPapist has a point – bishops used to be elected, long years ago. As late as 1829, the Pope nominated only a small number of the bishops.

  • http://twitter.com/WilliamCallagha William Callaghan

    and he used to be the Papal Master of Ceremonies? Bishop Magee should hold his head in shame and beg for forgiveness

  • Andrew Galea

    Is this the Church of Christ??
    A plague on you!You are rotten to the core!If Christ were alive today he would disown all of you.

  • Bbshort

    Well, it is scandalous and quite disconcerting if not to say the least.

    All good remarks though, but selfish.  Jesus is the Only Judge. Those who sin, are judged by God, thus, It is always God who absolves. Priests are to show us dull and dimwitted only can understand the visual and not the spiritual in Confession.  Here’s how it really works. You got to confession, but, is it just the human priest that hears?  No. He the priest is a channel for Christ.  It is rather interesting that we have to follow this prescribed method. Why? Sincerity.  Now, here’s the kicker.  It is actually Christ there unseen in surrounding the priest. It is as if Jesus is there, He is.  Then when Jesus hears your heart not miss a beat and give an honest confession, He sprinkles you with His Blood to wash away the sin or sins. You don’t see the Blood because this is the New Rite and not the old where the Invisible Jesus sees and hears all.  How else will He judge men? By their hearts intent. Your desire to sin or not to sin. Your desire for true holy living.  You should make sure you live a holy life and forget about what others do.  They are distractions.  No one is perfect everyone has fallen short of the glory of God. We are all born sinners and must overcome the flesh, the world and Satan to obtain Heaven.

    Now I’m not neglecting corporal works of mercy, compassion, forgiveness, forebearance and encouraging those who fall because everyone falls. and that’s the beauty of the Sacraments, when we sin, we have an ‘Advocate’ with the Father, His Name is Jesus Christ.

    When a priest screws up and it is covered up the the Human Side of Things, Remember there’s the Eternal Just Judge Who doesn’t miss a beat. They who do such things are asking for Eternal Damnation. Now ask yourself this, if you were this bishop, priest caught in the scandal, how would you want others to react to such? Would you confess before the public? Would you seek reparation? What would you do?

    Such is.

    There are plenty of Catholics whether priest or lay, that do not “Believe” anymore these are known by their actions.  It is sad, but true. We each individual are called by a Single God to follow a Single Gospel, to show forth the True God in holy living.  True Believers, pray for those who drifted off the path.  And only those who are truly gifted with the Voice, should reproach one to bring them back to the True Fold. In the case of a bishop it must be the Pope, in the case of a parish priest it must be a Bishop.  Hierarchy.

    In the case where nothing is being done. then the lay speak up but it is better to pray always so as to receive the right graces and wisdom so as not to blow things out in the open.  The things of Christ in the Church must be dealt with by Believers and not the non-believers as written by St. Paul.  Why bring scandal out in the public where those who are non-believers can created more fumes?  Not a good thing. Thus Christ says: “Do Not Judge.” Because in doing so, you become the Judge and God then drops a hammer on your head for doing His Job.

    Prayer is the best answer in this case. Pray to the Holy Mother of God She is the Mediatrix of All Graces.

    The Wedding at Cana: She says to the ‘servant’s, “Listen to My Son” and She obtained a miracle from Jesus by turning the Water to Wine.

    The Blessed Mother obtains many miracles for those who trust in Her.

    Peace in the Name of Jesus and Mary. Faith Hope Charity these three.

  • CM

    We already have married clergy.

  • CM

    “Bishop Magee was determined to Star-Trek his Gothic cathedral”

    It isn’t HIS cathedral, surely? It’s ours!

  • CM

    In the early centuries of the Church, the nomination and election of bishops were done solely by a popular vote of all the faithful. St. Cyprian believed elections prevented unworthy persons from becoming bishops.

    If the Church follow the example of St Cyprian today, all of this could have been avoided.

  • Apgalea

    PAROLE, PAROLE PAROLE………….
    NO SUSTANCE!!!!!!!!