Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Hideaway bishop John Magee pledges full response to sex abuse report

Former bishop John Magee

The Newry-born Catholic bishop severely criticised in the Cloyne report for his approach to child abuse cases has broken his silence.

Bishop John Magee, whose resignation was accepted by the Pope, is now thought to be timing a public response to coincide with the Vatican's official reply to the damning report.

Now retired, Dr Magee yesterday spoke for the first time about the report, after he was tracked down by the Sunday Independent to his home in Mitchelstown, Co Cork. He had not been seen since the report revealed serious mishandling of child sex abuse cases.

The report singled out the bishop for deliberately misleading the authorities about internal inquiries into children's claims that priests were abusing them.

He was accused of "inertia" and of having little interest in how child sex abuse cases were handled until 2008-12 - years after guidelines were adopted.

The cleric reiterated his apology to victims but said he had "nothing to add" to the account he gave to a commission of inquiry.

But his elderly brother, Hugh, who spoke on the retired bishop's behalf, said he was preparing a more detailed statement which would be issued "shortly".

Senior bishops have added their voices to some of the victims of clerical child abuse who have called on Dr Magee to answer questions raised in the report.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said: "Those in Church and State who have acted wrongly or inadequately should assume accountability."

Archbishop of Cashel and Emly Dermot Clifford said it would have been helpful if Bishop Magee had faced the media.

Dr Magee has not been seen since the report was published, but the paper found him in the house provided for him by the diocese since he resigned last year.

While declining to be interviewed, he dismissed reports that he had fled to Rome or America, saying: "No, I wasn't there."

Asked if he intended to address priests in the diocese or his parishioners on the subject of the report, Dr Magee did not respond. His brother intervened to insist that there would be "no interview".

Before they went indoors, Dr Magee's brother called for the retired bishop to be treated fairly: "Treat him with respect. That's all I ask and I'm asking that as his brother."

Catholic church watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children, found three years ago that child protection policies in Cloyne were "inadequate and in some respects dangerous". The Dublin Archdiocese commission investigating the handling of child abuse cases extended its remit to Cloyne and was even more damning. It said the greatest failure was not reporting all cases of child abuse to authorities.

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