Congregation Divided over Bishop's Handover of Diocesan Duties

By Barry Roche
The Irish Times
March 9, 2009

LOCAL REACTION: MORE THAN 300 people attended Mass at St Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh at 6pm on Saturday to hear Bishop John Magee make his announcement from the pulpit that he is to step down from all administrative duties in the diocese.

While all expressed personal sympathy for him, some believed he had done no wrong while others felt he should have made such a move earlier.

Eamon Butler from Cobh said it was “a sad day for the people of Cobh” but he suggested Dr Magee might have considered his position months back when the controversy over his handling of allegations of sexual abuse arose.

“If right was right, he should have resigned a couple of months ago . . . Bishop John Magee was a strong-willed man, nobody told him what to do and he made up in his own mind in his own time – tonight is sad,” Mr Butler said.

Fellow Cobhman Mike Sweeney said: “Unfortunately, he probably won’t be coming back to us. It’s certainly a tragedy for him because he’s given his best to the diocese but I think it is the right thing to do at this stage; it will help the diocese.”

Mary Leahy from Cobh believed Dr Magee had been scapegoated. “I feel terribly sorry for the bishop, I feel he was hunted out . . . by the media.”

Husband and wife, Michael and Anna Forrest, also expressed sympathy for Dr Magee. Mrs Forrest pointed out Dr Magee was effectively bearing responsibility for the actions of others. “He’s been blamed for an awful lot and I don’t think that he deserves to be treated that way. He handled it wrong but the priests who abused these children, where are they?

“The bishop abused no child. He handled it wrong but he’s trying to sort it out now to the best of his ability and he’s putting up with an awful lot and taking the full brunt of it himself and I feel very sorry for him. I think he’s a very lonely man,” she said.

Michael Forrest questioned whether Dr Magee may have been forced into making the decision into handing over the administration of the diocese and said he felt the statement didn’t really clarify the situation greatly.

“I don’t think his statement clears up an awful lot. I mean, is helping the inquiry as full-time a job as he says it is? I’m wondering was he pushed. I have no objection to him staying . . . apart from the issue of the wanting to remove the altar rails here at the cathedral, he’s been quite good.”


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