Cloyne Report Sparks Calls for Bishop to Quit

By Mark Tighe
The Times

December 20, 2008

Campaign groups are calling for Bishop John Magee to stand down after ‘damning’ report into allegations of sexual abuse by priests in Cloyne

THE minister of state for children has described the findings of the report into allegations of sexual abuse by priests in Cloyne as “damning”.

Barry Andrews said Bishop John Magee had apologised “with good reason” after the report by National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC), an organisation set up by the Catholic church, concluded that poor management had exposed “vulnerable young people to further harm”.

Magee said: “The safety of children is the priority for me and for the diocese of Cloyne. Whilst the allegations referred to in this report are not proven and this report makes no determination as to their veracity, nevertheless my intention is to alleviate those who have suffered in any way that I can.”

Campaign groups and opposition party TDs were unimpressed with the response. Sean Sherlock, a Labour deputy for Cork East, said: “Bishop Magee now has to seriously consider his position and decide whether he can retain the confidence of the people of Cloyne in the light of these disclosures.”

Colm O’Gorman, the director of Amnesty International Ireland and the former director of the One-in-Four victim support group, said he had no confidence in Magee. He said: “The report shows the person who had ultimate responsibility for child protection in this area has been shown to have failed absolutely in discharging that duty.

“It continues to be the case that the same bishop is responsible for the provision of education for the vast majority of children in that diocese.”

O’Gorman said it was time for the state to take responsibility for ensuring child-protection measures were in place in schools around the country as the church had not learned from the 2005 Ferns report.

A spokeswoman for Andrews said the minister would wait for the publication of another report into Cloyne by the Health Service Executive before commenting further. The report was completed on December 4 but it cannot be published yet for legal reasons.

The NBSC inquiry examined how Cloyne dealt with a series of complaints of sexual abuse against two priests. One woman reported “Father B” for abuse in 1996 saying she had a year-long sexual relationship him and that she had seen him kissing her 14-year-old son.

Three other complaints of sexual abuse were made against this priest between 1995 and 1997, and in 2005 a woman claimed that she had sex with the priest from the age of 13. In 1998, Magee instructed the priest not to visit schools or to have children aged under 18 in his house.

The alleged victim of another priest is himself a priest.

Last week Louise O’Keeffe, 43, lost a Supreme Court case in which she attempted to prove that the state was liable for the sexual abuse she suffered in school. The court ruled that the state was not liable for the actions of the national school teacher who abused her as an eight-year-old.

O’Gorman said: “Last year the minister of education made it clear that each school is responsible for its own child protection and 90% of these operate under the direction of the local bishop. Yet here we are finding out yet again that bishops don’t take child protection seriously. Child protection has to be the primary responsibility of the state.

A spokesman for the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference said the hierarchy would not be issuing a statement on the Cloyne report.


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