Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Ex-bishop accused over child abuse

Shamed former bishop John Magee

Shamed former bishop John Magee has not grasped the gravity of his failures to protect children and investigate paedophile priests, a group supporting clerical abuse victims has said.

Under immense pressure to speak out over his lack of interest in exposing abuse, the one-time Vatican aide said he was ashamed that people had suffered under his watch and begged for forgiveness.

But support group One In Four accused the ex-bishop of not taking responsibility for what happened in the Cloyne diocese.

"It's as if Bishop Magee is a victim of a type of distorted thinking which is just as harmful to child protection as more active sex offending," executive director Maeve Lewis said.

Mr Magee fled Ireland in the wake of a damning report into his dangerous child protection actions in the Cloyne Diocese.

He effectively ignored guidelines - agreed by bishops in 1996 to keep youngsters safe - as recently as three years ago. An inquiry into allegations found that his clerical leadership on abuse allegations had been marked by inertia.

But breaking his silence on Monday, Mr Magee said he fully understood why victims felt anger towards him, claiming he had let them down by not implementing the guidelines.

Ms Lewis said many questions remained, but claimed further attempts to question the ex-bishop could be seen as a witch-hunt of an elderly man.

"It is very clear from what the bishop had to say... that he doesn't really understand the dynamics of abuse, the abuse of power that's involved and the enormous impact that sexual abuse in childhood has on a person's life," she told RTE Radio. "Asking now to be left in peace and so on - there is no peace for those victims, and I think he really doesn't seem to understand that."

The Association of Catholic Priests, established to allow priests a forum to discuss the issues affecting the church, said the shamed bishop's language and manner were inadequate.

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