Mitchelstown, Co Cork: Confession From Shamed Ex-Bishop “I Let Children Down”

22 Aug

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.

NEWS UPDATE:

VICTIMS of clerical sex abuse have dismissed as “empty” and “insincere” expressions of shame and regret by the former bishop of Cloyne Dr John Magee for the abuse that took place under his watch.

One woman described Dr Magee’s offer to meet privately with victims and their families as nothing but showmanship. “I met with him privately a number of times and my advice to other victims is: ‘don’t bother’. Go to the gardaí instead.”

Victim support group One in Four said they were dismayed by Dr Magee’s statement yesterday.

“While it appears to be an apology, he continues to justify his own position,” said One in Four chief executive Maeve Lewis.

In his statement, Dr Magee referred to the “failure of the diocese” to effectively manage allegations of child sexual abuse. However, Ms Lewis said it was very clear from the Cloyne report Dr Magee was “aware of the many allegations, while he seems to be saying now he was not aware”.

Dr Magee commented publicly for the first time since the publication of the Cloyne report which examined the handling by Church and state of allegations of clerical sex abuse. The report found Dr Magee’s response to complaints of clerical child sex abuse was “inadequate” and “inappropriate”.

Yesterday, Dr Magee re-iterated the apology he made to victims in the wake of the Cloyne report, but this time with the offer to meet with them and their families “if they felt this could help in any way”. He also apologised to the priests and people of the diocese for “not addressing the issues which confronted me”.

Archbishop of Cashel and Emly Dr Dermot Clifford last night welcomed the fact that Dr Magee had finally spoken publicly “and that he expressed his regret for what had happened and his responsibility for mistakes that were made”. Dr Clifford also welcomed Dr Magee’s re-iterated apology and his offer to meet with victims.

However, Ms Lewis warned victims considering Dr Magee’s offer that such meetings could be “quite intimidating” and she advised that they not go alone but take family or therapists with them or a representative from One in Four.

One victim expressed outrage that Dr Magee had appealed for privacy while she “would never have peace”. She also criticised Dr Magee’s decision to go into hiding rather than seek out the victims in the wake of the Cloyne report. “He said he would go down on bended knee to apologise, but why didn’t he look for our phone numbers when the report came out? I don’t find anything sincere in anything he said yesterday. He should come out for once and for all with hands up and say ‘We lied. We covered up, and we did it in the name of God’.”

Sex abuse victim Andrew Madden said Dr Magee’s statement was “empty”.

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