A PUBLIC endorsement by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of a priest who marched almost 300km to protest at the mishandling of child sex abuse cases by Bishop John Magee has increased the pressure on the head of the Diocese of Cloyne to resign.
Dr Martin said he respected Fr Michael Mernagh’s nine-day protest walk over the handling of sex abuse allegations in Cloyne and “very much appreciated his gesture”.
He added: “I recognise what he did as a person, a man of principles and I respect anyone like that.”
Finishing his march to the applause of hundreds of supporters at the footsteps of Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral, Fr Mernagh reiterated his call for the Bishop Magee to step down following the critical report by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSC) on his handling of complaints.
“For the sake of himself and his own people, he has admitted he’s been at fault. It’s logical for him to step aside,” said Fr Mernagh.
But despite Dr Martin’s endorsement of Fr Mernagh’s protest and the two embracing openly on the cathedral’s altar yesterday, there was still no indication last night from Bishop Magee that he was considering his position or that he would step aside.
It also emerged that Bishop Magee, along with the Bishop of Limerick, Dr Donal Murray, appointed the interdiocesan case management advisory committee that wrote a letter threatening legal action against the NBSC if it published its report, which when subsequently published found that Dr Magee had grossly mishandled alleged abuse in his diocese.
A spokesperson for the bishop’s office last night distanced Dr Magee from the letter, saying the decision to send the letter was taken by the committee.
However, a spokesman for the Irish Bishops’ Conference confirmed the advisory committee would ultimately be answerable to the bishop.
Bishop Murray said he did not know how the letter had come about and he was not aware of it.
Dr Martin said he welcomed the introduction of external audits on the practice of child protection across all church dioceses.
He said he would welcome a full audit of child protection measures across all dioceses by the Child Protection Board and the health authorities. He added: “As part of the process of signing I invite the national board to carry out whatever review they feel necessary to ensure there is compliance.”
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