Former bishop takes ‘full responsibility’ for flawed procedures

BISHOP John Magee bears “primary responsibility” for the “inadequate and inappropriate response” to complaints of clerical child sex abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne.

The Commission of Investigation found that the diocese failed to implement Church procedures for dealing with abuse cases because Dr Magee was “detached” and took “little real interest” in the issue.

Dr Magee falsely told both the previous Government and the HSE that Cloyne was complying with the Church protocols when it was not.

On another occasion, he deliberately created two different accounts of a meeting with an accused priest — an incident which, the inquiry said, raised “very serious issues” about the diocese’s policy on the creation and retention of documentation.

Dr Magee, a former private secretary to three popes, was appointed Bishop of Cloyne in 1987. He stepped aside from day-to-day running of the diocese in 2009 and finally resigned from the position in 2010.

The inquiry examined how the diocese, under his watch, handled complaints and allegations of abuse from the period of January 1996 to February of 2009.

In 1996, the Irish Bishops’ Conference had introduced procedures in its “framework document” for dealing with allegations of child sex abuse.

However, the inquiry found Cloyne failed to implement the procedures. The “greatest failure” by the diocese was its failure to report all complaints to the Gardaí.

Between 1996 and 2005, there were 15 complaints that “very clearly should have been reported” to the Gardaí but only six of these were.

The diocese also failed to report any complaints to the health authorities between 1996 and 2008.

“The primary responsibility for the failure to implement the agreed procedures lies with Bishop Magee,” the report stated.

“It is a remarkable fact that Bishop Magee took little or no active interest in the management of clerical child sexual abuse cases until 2008, 12 years after the framework document was adopted.”

Because of this detachment, it fell to the bishop’s assistant, Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan, to deal with the allegations but he “did not approve of the procedures set out in the framework document” and therefore “stymied” its implementation.

“Bishop Magee does not seem to have ever checked that Monsignor O’Callaghan was actually abiding by the requirements of the framework document,” the report stated.

“The extent of the inertia of the bishop which made these things possible is remarkable.”

Despite the failure to implement the procedures, Dr Magee falsely told the then minister for children in 2007 that the framework document guidelines were being fully complied with. He misled the HSE in a similar fashion.

In a statement last night, Dr Magee said he accepted “in its entirety” the commission’s finding that he bore primary responsibility for the failures.

“I again sincerely apologise to all those who were abused by priests in the Diocese of Cloyne for my failure to ensure that they were fully supported and responded to in their time of need,” he said.

“Given my position of responsibility, I am particularly saddened when I read the accounts of the complainants describing the effects of the abuse, knowing that I contributed to their distress.

“I have met some of the complainants personally and heard their stories. The people, who were so terribly abused by priests, found the courage to come forward to talk to me, or to my delegate, Mgr O’Callaghan who was representing me and, in many cases, we failed them.

“I am sorry that this happened and I unreservedly apologise to all those who suffered additional hurt because of the flawed implementation of the Church procedures, for which I take full responsibility.”

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