Embattled Bishop Hands over Control of Diocese
Magee: 'Very Difficult' to Balance His Duties

By Ralph Riegel and Don Lavery
Irish Independent
March 8, 2009

Embattled Bishop of Cloyne John Magee effectively removed himself from running his own diocese yesterday, after asking Pope Benedict to appoint an administrator to run its day-to-day affairs.

Bishop Magee last night explained to parishioners in St Colman's Cathedral in Cobh that it would be "very difficult" for him to balance his normal diocesan duties with the workload involved in assisting the Commission of Inquiry.

However, the bishop did not mention the issue of resignation as Bishop of Cloyne -- or how long he will retain the title while another cleric runs his diocese.

Bishop Magee, who was under intense pressure to resign over his mishandling of child sex abuse claims, will now spend his time co-operating fully with the Government Commission of Inquiry into child protection practices in the diocese.

He is now widely expected to step down later this year when the commission completes its work.

In the meantime, his diocese will be run by an apostolic administrator, Bishop Dermot Clifford, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, who has been given all the powers and duties of the Bishop of Cloyne.

A statement by Bishop Magee said he retains the title of Bishop of Cloyne, but this was seen as allowing the bishop to keep his dignity in the face of pressure to quit.

Cardinal Sean Brady, Primate of All Ireland, said: "The decision of the Holy Father to grant that request by Bishop Magee is an indication of the importance which the Church gives to safeguarding children and caring for the needs of victims."

Earlier this year, the cardinal was judged by many to have damaged himself in the wake of a damning report on child protection practices in Cloyne when he rejected calls for Bishop Magee to step down.

An independent report found the diocese had put children at risk of harm through an "inability" to respond appropriately to abuse allegations.

The report by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church found child protection practices in Cloyne were "inadequate and in some respects dangerous".

Yesterday, in response to a question, the Archbishop of Dublin said that he has no comment to make on the current appointment.

He repeated that the important thing is that everything necessary be done to ensure the safeguarding of children within the structures of the Church in Ireland.

"The indications are that thousands of children may have been victims of child sexual abuse by Church personnel over the past 30 to 40 years.

"Survivors live with their suffering day by day. Children have been let down. Lives have been devastated.

"People are rightly angry at what has been done to victims, to their families and indeed to good priests who go about their ministry daily," he said.

"Many Catholics have lost confidence in the Church and their patience is not everlasting," he added.

Victims' rights groups were last night split over Bishop Magee's decision to ask the Pope to appoint an administrator to the diocese.

One in Four welcomed the move -- and claimed it represented a crucial shift in attitude. "We welcome Bishop Magee's decision to resign. It is to his credit that he is taking responsibility for lapses in the Diocese of Cloyne," One in Four director Maeve Lewis said.

However, the Alliance Support Group (ASG) warned that the move simply did not go far enough given the revelations with regard to childcare policies in the Cloyne diocese.

"The bishop should not have any role or title whatsoever within the diocese. In moving sideways he is still going to be influential within the diocese," warned ASG official Tom Hayes.

It also emerged yesterday that there were worries within the diocese of public protests against the bishop during confirmations in two weeks' time. He will not now supervise the hectic schedule of confirmations.

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