Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Bishop quits over handling of abuse claims

A senior Irish Catholic Bishop has quit following a storm of controversy over his mishandling of clerical child sex abuse allegations, it was confirmed today.

Scandal-hit Bishop of Cloyne John Magee, a former Vatican aide, will keep his title but has stepped down from the day-to-day running of parishes across rural Cork.

The beleaguered cleric, from Newry, Co Down, faced scathing criticism after the church's own watchdog found he took minimal action over accusations against two of his priests, branding his child protection inadequate and dangerous.

Bishop Magee, who served as private secretary to three different Popes, apologised when the report was published on the internet the week before Christmas but refused to resign.

The Catholic Church in Ireland confirmed he asked Pope Benedict on February 4 to find a senior cleric to take over his duties in Cloyne.

Archbishop Dermot Clifford, from the neighbouring Diocese of Cashel and Emly has accepted the job.

Cardinal Sean Brady said the appointment showed the desire to protect children and support victims of abuse.

"The decision of the Holy Father to grant that request is an indication of the importance which the Church gives to safeguarding children and caring for the needs of victims," the Cardinal said.

Archbishop Clifford's official title will be Apostolic Administrator.

"I look forward to serving the people and priests of Cloyne and to giving them pastoral leadership to the best of my ability," the Archbishop said.

"Coming from a neighbouring diocese, I know them to be a people with a proud tradition of faith.

"I will give every possible cooperation to the Commission of Inquiry into the Diocese of Cloyne."

The Archbishop said he plans to meet with the College of Consultors, the Council of Priests, and the diocesan Child Protection Delegate.

It is understood talks will focus on protection in the church.

An explosive report on child protection in Cloyne, compiled by the Catholic Church's National Board for Safeguarding Children, detailed how the Bishop failed to inform authorities about abuse allegations.

The accusations centre on two priests in the Co Cork diocese. The first revelation, made by a serving priest in December 2004, claimed he had been abused by another priest when he was a young boy.

In a separate accusation, a second unnamed priest was accused of molesting two teenage girls over a five-year period, abusing a 14-year-old boy and of having a year-long sexual relationship with the boy's mother.

Victims' groups were further angered, accusing authorities of attempting to bury the report and a lack of transparency, after it was published on the web on a Friday evening the week before Christmas.

A second audit by health chiefs published in January also found the Bishop failed to tell authorities one of his priests was under investigation for abuse. At the same time he claimed he was fully compliant with child-protection guidelines.

In all, Bishop Magee issued three statements refusing to resign.

Irish Children's Minister Barry Andrews declined to call for him to step down, instead suggesting the Bishop should consider his position.

The first Cloyne report revealed gardai were not alerted to the child abuse claims for six months.

It said the diocese did not name the alleged perpetrator to gardai, but named the alleged victim, also a priest.

In the second case, it took the diocese eight years to call in gardai after allegations were made against a priest in early 1995.

Last week, Bishop Magee wrote to priests in the diocese revealing he would not carry out confirmations on primary school children this year, blaming the amount of paperwork he faces as the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation into child protection investigates Cloyne.

Its audit is expected in July.

It is understood at least five parents' groups asked the Bishop not to confirm their children.

In a statement, Bishop Magee said he welcomed the Archbishop's appointment.

The Diocese said: "This appointment will enable Bishop Magee to devote the necessary time and energy to co-operating fully with the government Commission of Inquiry into child protection practices and procedures in the Diocese of Cloyne, as he has already committed himself to do."

Bishop Magee will address the Diocese at Mass in St Colman's Cathedral, Cobh, Co Cork tonight.

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