Cork: An Almighty Holy Cover-Up: Bishop John Magee Failed A Succession Of Clerical Sex Abuse Victims

14 Jul

Testament of failure: Cloyne Report in full

By Noel Baker and Claire O’Sullivan: THE IRISH EXAMINER:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

BISHOP John Magee last night stood accused of lying to the state over child protection procedures in the Cloyne Diocese, where he and his senior assistant failed a succession of victims of clerical sex abuse.

The damning findings of the report into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne included the disclosure that Dr Magee was also the subject of a complaint over an alleged inappropriate incident with a teenage boy.

Both Dr Magee and his delegate, Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan, apologised to victims last night, while the Government outlined a range of new measures which will make the failure to report incidents of alleged sex abuse a crime.

The measures will even include reports made to doctors and made to priests hearing confession, with Justice Minister Alan Shatter effectively calling time on the Church’s right to place its own rules above the laws of the state.

Fresh criminal cases could also result, following yesterday’s publication of the report which is being forwarded to Assistant Garda Commissioner Derek Byrne for review.

It also emerged that Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore is arranging to meet the papal nuncio to discuss issues raised in the report, and is having a copy of the report formally submitted to the Vatican.

The threat of probes into other dioceses also hangs over the Church after the publication of the report, which looked at allegations made against 19 priests between 1996 and 2008.

Virtually every complaint was not referred to the Garda or the health authorities.

Mr Shatter and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said there was now an onus on the Church to ensure that the findings of a national review of dioceses and religious orders were published, with Mr Shatter claiming the only reason for not doing so would be “to conceal yet another failure to comply”.

Victim support groups rounded on the Church, with abuse survivor and campaigner Andrew Madden calling for the papal nuncio to be removed from the symbolic position of Dean of the Diplomatic Corps. The Vatican’s role in the Cloyne cover-up was described as “very unhelpful” both by the report and Mr Shatter, but Dr Magee, who resigned last year, came in for the most criticism.

He had told the HSE in 2007 that Children First guidelines were being implemented. The report said this was not true, and Mr Shatter said his words had been “disingenuous”.

Dr Magee had also told the then minister for children that guidelines were being implemented, while an internal report by expert Dr Kevin McCoy highlighting failings was ignored. On that, Mr Shatter said: “There was an economy of truth in what was said.”

In a sensational revelation it emerged in the report that Dr Magee was also the subject of a complaint involving a then 17-year-old boy, centring on allegations of a series of long embraces, kisses to the forehead and a declaration of love by the bishop when the boy visited him to tell him he had decided against entering the priesthood.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) ultimately decided not to take the matter on after the complainant asked for an internal Church investigation into the incident.

As for the allegations made against the 19 priests, two involving complaints made when the alleged victims were still minors, diocesan delegate Mgr Denis O’Callaghan is excoriated for his failed attempts to deal with the abusers and help victims. The commission found Mgr O’Callaghan did not believe in the guidelines the Church was supposed to be implementing.

Main findings of the report

* The Diocese of Cloyne failed adequately to record, report or investigate allegations of child sex abuse made against priests from 1996 to 2009, in particular nine out 15 cases identified as clear-cut.

* Bishop John Magee was an “ineffective bishop” who “took little or no active interest” in child sex abuse cases and “wholly failed to supervise” his subordinate, Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan.

* Mgr Denis O’Callaghan, right, was “uncommitted” to the role of managing child sex abuse cases and displayed “inexplicable failures” to recognise child sex abuse.
* Dr Magee made “false” and “untrue” statements to the then minister for children and HSE claiming the Church’s reporting procedures laid down in 1996 were being fully implemented.

* Mgr O’Callaghan did not accept and “stymied” implementation of the Church’s reporting procedures, believing it was not the Church’s responsibility to report alleged offenders.

* No attempt was made to find out if complaints were made in other places where suspected priests worked.

* An “independent” diocesan advisory panel on child sex abuse consisted of Mgr O’Callaghan and another senior cleric, and counselling was provided to complainants “in a manner which it was hoped would not attract any legal liability to the diocese”.

* Gardaí failed to investigate complaints made against three priests, in one case leaving a victim’s statement “forgotten” in a drawer, and have not provided convincing explanations for these failures.

* The Vatican, in raising canonical objections to the Irish Church’s reporting procedures, gave bishops “freedom to ignore” the procedures and “comfort and support” to dissenters like Mgr O’Callaghan.

– Caroline O’Doherty.


Calls to summon Pope’s ambassador:
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has come under pressure from Cabinet colleagues to summon the Pope’s Irish ambassador over Rome‘s role in the Cloyne scandal.

The report into the handling of clerical sex abuse allegations in the diocese branded the Vatican “entirely unhelpful” over its dismissal of mandatory reporting guidelines as “merely a study document”.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said the intervention by the then Papal Nuncio – who he described as an ambassador from a foreign state – was unfortunate and unacceptable when the country was given assurances the Church had implemented new child protection guidelines.

Describing it as a matter of some seriousness, Mr Shatter said it was a matter for the Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Mr Gilmore to “have a conversation” with the Papal Nuncio.

Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald also turned on the Vatican for being “singularly unhelpful” over the scandal.

“When the Irish church sought to apply guidelines to prevent it happening again, the Vatican told its clerics that those guidelines were not what they appeared,” she said.

Ms Fitzgerald said the reference to the official Irish Church policy on dealing with suspected paedophile priests as a study document ensured that, as the study continued, so did the child abuse.

The Cloyne report found the response from the Vatican effectively gave carte blanche to the likes of Bishop John Magee to ignore the guidelines and offered “comfort and support” to senior clerics such as Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan who dissented on the guidelines for alleged abuse.

The Papal Nuncio wrote the secret letter to all Irish bishops in 1997, a year after the framework document on child protection was introduced.

In it he also wrote: “In particular, the situation of ’mandatory reporting’ gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature.”

Caoimhghin O Caolain, Sinn Féin spokesman on children, demanded the Government call in the Papal Nuncio to answer questions about the affair.

“The Report finds that the Vatican ’gave individual Irish bishops the freedom to ignore the procedures which they had agreed, and gave comfort and support to those who, like Monsignor O’Callaghan, dissented from the stated official Irish Church policy’,” he said.

“This is a damning indictment of the role of the Vatican. The Vatican is not just a Church bureaucracy – it is a sovereign State with which the Irish State has diplomatic relations.”


BISHOP John Magee bears “primary responsibility” for the “inadequate and inappropriate response” to complaints of clerical child sex abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne.

The Commission of Investigation found that the diocese failed to implement Church procedures for dealing with abuse cases because Dr Magee was “detached” and took “little real interest” in the issue.

Dr Magee falsely told both the previous Government and the HSE that Cloyne was complying with the Church protocols when it was not.

On another occasion, he deliberately created two different accounts of a meeting with an accused priest — an incident which, the inquiry said, raised “very serious issues” about the diocese’s policy on the creation and retention of documentation.

Dr Magee, a former private secretary to three popes, was appointed Bishop of Cloyne in 1987. He stepped aside from day-to-day running of the diocese in 2009 and finally resigned from the position in 2010.

The inquiry examined how the diocese, under his watch, handled complaints and allegations of abuse from the period of January 1996 to February of 2009.

In 1996, the Irish Bishops’ Conference had introduced procedures in its “framework document” for dealing with allegations of child sex abuse.

However, the inquiry found Cloyne failed to implement the procedures. The “greatest failure” by the diocese was its failure to report all complaints to the Gardaí.

Between 1996 and 2005, there were 15 complaints that “very clearly should have been reported” to the Gardaí but only six of these were.

The diocese also failed to report any complaints to the health authorities between 1996 and 2008.

“The primary responsibility for the failure to implement the agreed procedures lies with Bishop Magee,” the report stated.

“It is a remarkable fact that Bishop Magee took little or no active interest in the management of clerical child sexual abuse cases until 2008, 12 years after the framework document was adopted.”

Because of this detachment, it fell to the bishop’s assistant, Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan, to deal with the allegations but he “did not approve of the procedures set out in the framework document” and therefore “stymied” its implementation.

“Bishop Magee does not seem to have ever checked that Monsignor O’Callaghan was actually abiding by the requirements of the framework document,” the report stated.

“The extent of the inertia of the bishop which made these things possible is remarkable.”

Despite the failure to implement the procedures, Dr Magee falsely told the then minister for children in 2007 that the framework document guidelines were being fully complied with. He misled the HSE in a similar fashion.

In a statement last night, Dr Magee said he accepted “in its entirety” the commission’s finding that he bore primary responsibility for the failures.

“I again sincerely apologise to all those who were abused by priests in the Diocese of Cloyne for my failure to ensure that they were fully supported and responded to in their time of need,” he said.

“Given my position of responsibility, I am particularly saddened when I read the accounts of the complainants describing the effects of the abuse, knowing that I contributed to their distress.

“I have met some of the complainants personally and heard their stories. The people, who were so terribly abused by priests, found the courage to come forward to talk to me, or to my delegate, Mgr O’Callaghan who was representing me and, in many cases, we failed them.

“I am sorry that this happened and I unreservedly apologise to all those who suffered additional hurt because of the flawed implementation of the Church procedures, for which I take full responsibility.”

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