Testament of failure

BISHOP John Magee last night stood accused of lying to the state over child protection procedures in the Cloyne Diocese, where he and his senior assistant failed a succession of victims of clerical sex abuse.

The damning findings of the report into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne included the disclosure that Dr Magee was also the subject of a complaint over an alleged inappropriate incident with a teenage boy.

Both Dr Magee and his delegate, Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan, apologised to victims last night, while the Government outlined a range of new measures which will make the failure to report incidents of alleged sex abuse a crime.

The measures will even include reports made to doctors and made to priests hearing confession, with Justice Minister Alan Shatter effectively calling time on the Church’s right to place its own rules above the laws of the state.

Fresh criminal cases could also result, following yesterday’s publication of the report which is being forwarded to Assistant Garda Commissioner Derek Byrne for review.

It also emerged that Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore is arranging to meet the papal nuncio to discuss issues raised in the report, and is having a copy of the report formally submitted to the Vatican.

The threat of probes into other dioceses also hangs over the Church after the publication of the report, which looked at allegations made against 19 priests between 1996 and 2008.

Virtually every complaint was not referred to the Garda or the health authorities.

Mr Shatter and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said there was now an onus on the Church to ensure that the findings of a national review of dioceses and religious orders were published, with Mr Shatter claiming the only reason for not doing so would be “to conceal yet another failure to comply”.

Victim support groups rounded on the Church, with abuse survivor and campaigner Andrew Madden calling for the papal nuncio to be removed from the symbolic position of Dean of the Diplomatic Corps. The Vatican’s role in the Cloyne cover-up was described as “very unhelpful” both by the report and Mr Shatter, but Dr Magee, who resigned last year, came in for the most criticism.

He had told the HSE in 2007 that Children First guidelines were being implemented. The report said this was not true, and Mr Shatter said his words had been “disingenuous”.

Dr Magee had also told the then minister for children that guidelines were being implemented, while an internal report by expert Dr Kevin McCoy highlighting failings was ignored. On that, Mr Shatter said: “There was an economy of truth in what was said.”

In a sensational revelation it emerged in the report that Dr Magee was also the subject of a complaint involving a then 17-year-old boy, centring on allegations of a series of long embraces, kisses to the forehead and a declaration of love by the bishop when the boy visited him to tell him he had decided against entering the priesthood.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) ultimately decided not to take the matter on after the complainant asked for an internal Church investigation into the incident.

As for the allegations made against the 19 priests, two involving complaints made when the alleged victims were still minors, diocesan delegate Mgr Denis O’Callaghan is excoriated for his failed attempts to deal with the abusers and help victims. The commission found Mgr O’Callaghan did not believe in the guidelines the Church was supposed to be implementing.

Main findings of the report

* The Diocese of Cloyne failed adequately to record, report or investigate allegations of child sex abuse made against priests from 1996 to 2009, in particular nine out 15 cases identified as clear-cut.

* Bishop John Magee was an “ineffective bishop” who “took little or no active interest” in child sex abuse cases and “wholly failed to supervise” his subordinate, Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan.

* Mgr Denis O’Callaghan, right, was “uncommitted” to the role of managing child sex abuse cases and displayed “inexplicable failures” to recognise child sex abuse.

* Dr Magee made “false” and “untrue” statements to the then minister for children and HSE claiming the Church’s reporting procedures laid down in 1996 were being fully implemented.

* Mgr O’Callaghan did not accept and “stymied” implementation of the Church’s reporting procedures, believing it was not the Church’s responsibility to report alleged offenders.

* No attempt was made to find out if complaints were made in other places where suspected priests worked.

* An “independent” diocesan advisory panel on child sex abuse consisted of Mgr O’Callaghan and another senior cleric, and counselling was provided to complainants “in a manner which it was hoped would not attract any legal liability to the diocese“.

* Gardaí failed to investigate complaints made against three priests, in one case leaving a victim’s statement “forgotten” in a drawer, and have not provided convincing explanations for these failures.

* The Vatican, in raising canonical objections to the Irish Church’s reporting procedures, gave bishops “freedom to ignore” the procedures and “comfort and support” to dissenters like Mgr O’Callaghan.

- Caroline O’Doherty

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