Sex Abuse Row Bishop Quits His Post

By Mark Tighe and Olivia Kelleher
The Times
March 8, 2009

John Magee steps down after criticism over failure to pass on allegations

John Magee, the Bishop of Cloyne, has stepped down from the day-to-day running of his Cork archdiocese almost three months after he was criticised in a church report for his failure to pass on allegations of sexual abuse made against priests.

A statement released yesterday by the Catholic Communication Office said that on February 4, Magee had requested Pope Benedict to appoint an Apostolic Administrator to replace him.

Archbishop Dermot Clifford, who is based in Cashel, has now been appointed to this temporary position by the Pope. Clifford said he had assumed all Magee’s responsibilities and powers to govern the Cloyne diocese.

Clifford had previously spoken in favour of Magee saying that his “continuing role as bishop of the diocese underpins his accountability”.

Related Links: Magee's resignation is a positive step

Despite his replacement, Magee will retain the title of Bishop of Cloyne. Magee, 72, had served as private secretary to three successive popes.

Maeve Lewis, director of the One in Four support group welcomed yesterday’s announcement.

“His decision to resign is the right thing to do,” she said. “It is to his credit that he recognises that following his mishandling of the allegations of abuse in Cloyne this was what he had to do. We feel this sends a very clear message that the Catholic church is taking the safety of children very seriously.”

Lewis said she wasn’t concerned that Magee would retain the title of Bishop ofCloyne. “The fact that he no longer has the powers or duties of a bishop is the important thing,” said Lewis. “Barry Andrews, the minister of children, said he was not confident in Bishop Magee’s ability to protect children so this is a significant move. There isn’t a culture of resignations in Ireland in general so it’s very much to the bishop’s credit that he has stepped aside.”

Tom Hayes, of the Alliance Support Group, a victims’ organisation, said Bishop Magee’s resignation in all but name did not go far enough.

“The bishop should not have any role or title whatsoever within the diocese,” he said. “In moving sideways he is still going to be influential within the diocese. Bishop Magee should have been removed from the diocese. He is going to still have a role within the structure of the diocese on the implementation of guidelines which he himself did not support. Bishop Magee should have resigned from the beginning. This is not going to be acceptable to many people.”

Andrews refused to comment yesterday.

The Cloyne report by the church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children, published last December, said that child-protection practices in Cloyne were “inadequate and in some respects dangerous”.

Andrews increased pressure on Magee when he referred Cloyne to the Dublin archdiocese’s commission of investigation in January. This inquiry will begin later this year once the commission publishes the results of its investigations into clerical child abuse in Dublin.

At 6pm mass yesterday Magee told parishioners that it was because of the burden of dealing with this inquiry that he was stepping down.

“I am conscious of the fact that, as I have to give so much of my time and energy to the task ahead, conducting the normal administration of the diocese, in all its aspects, would prove to be difficult,” he said. “Therefore, as you may have heard from media reports earlier today, on February 4, I requested the Holy See to appoint an Apostolic Administrator for the diocese . . . I will dedicate my full time to the matter of the inquiry. I shall certainly give Archbishop Clifford every support and assistance and shall keep him in my daily Masses and prayers.”

The Bishop asked the congregation to pray for “any persons who have been so wrongly abused by priests of this diocese.”

Sean Brady, Cardinal and Catholic Primate of Ireland said: “The decision of the Holy Father to grant that request (for Magee to step aside) is an indication of the importance which the church gives to safeguarding children and caring for the needs of victims.”

In January Brady was criticised by some groups for standing up for Magee and saying there was now reason for him to resign.


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