Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

I let children down, says ex-bishop John Magee

Shamed former biship John Magee, seen here with Pope Benedict XVI, has begged forgiveness for failing to protect children

A shamed former bishop at the centre of a major clerical abuse scandal has begged for forgiveness for failing to protect children and investigate paedophile priests.

Under immense pressure to speak out over his lack of interest in exposing abuse, one-time Vatican aide John Magee said he was ashamed people had suffered under his watch.

"I fully understand why they are angry - I let them down, by not fully implementing the guidelines which were available to me," he said. "I deeply, deeply regret not ensuring that the guidelines, which were my responsibility to implement, were not complied with and I ask for forgiveness for the way in which I have carried out this critically important aspect of my work."

The ex-bishop 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 his clerical leadership on abuse allegations had been marked by inertia. He was singled out for deliberately misleading authorities about internal inquiries into children's claims that priests were abusing them.

Magee, who lives in Mitchelstown in the Cork diocese, offered to meet victims privately. But he also warned that nothing he can say will ease their pain and distress.

Reiterating a statement he issued in the wake of the Cloyne report earlier this summer, he said he took full responsibility for the diocesan failures to manage effectively allegations of child sexual abuse and he repeated his apology to victims first made in Cobh Cathedral on Christmas Eve in 2008.

Newry-born Magee, a former papal envoy, insisted that he had not been aware of the full extent of the failure to protect children and expose paedophile priests until the report was published.

"I also take this opportunity to say that I let the many good priests of the Diocese down," he said. "So many priests do such good work and by not addressing the issues which confronted me I made their important work more difficult. I also want to apologise to the people of the Diocese for not managing this important work more effectively."