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Sunday 30 April 2017

Bishop's future in doubt over handling of complaints

Conor Kane

A Catholic bishop refused to be drawn on his future yesterday after admitting his response to clerical abuse allegations was "seriously inadequate" and that he had not passed on information to the gardai for two years.

The future of Bishop William Lee of the Waterford and Lismore diocese is now in doubt despite apologising for his handling of allegations in the 1990s.

A spokesperson for the bishop said he would not be commenting on any calls for his resignation. It followed the release of a statement in which the bishop admitted that his actions were inadequate when complaints were made to him in 1993 about a priest in his diocese.

His statement came just a day after Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of Bishop John Magee from the diocese of Cloyne and follows intense criticism of the role played by Cardinal Sean Brady in dealing with abuse allegations in 1975.

The cardinal was at a meeting in Co Cavan, where he was serving as a priest at the time, where two people abused by Fr Brendan Smyth were told to sign oaths of secrecy.

Dr Magee's resignation on Tuesday came in the wake of Pope Benedict's criticism of the way in which some bishops had mishandled clerical abuse.

Three other bishops who tendered their resignations in the wake of the Murphy Report's publication -- James Moriarty, Ray Field and Eamonn Walsh -- have yet to have their resignations accepted by the Pope.

Bishop Lee yesterday apologised for allowing two years to elapse before he informed gardai about allegations of abuse made against a priest in his diocese in 1993.

Several people came forward to him, shortly after his ordination as bishop, and while he moved the priest concerned to a new ministry as part of "ongoing diocesan changes," he didn't tell the priest's new colleagues about the allegations.

Treatment

It wasn't until October of 1995, Bishop Lee said in yesterday's statement, that he reported the matter to the gardai the following December.

The bishop removed the priest from the ministry and sent him for treatment.

Bishop Lee said that it was on the advice of a psychiatrist that he originally decided in 1993 that the priest could safely work with children. The people who complained to him about the priest -- who were adults by then -- had decided themselves not to go to the gardai, he said.

The priest at the centre of the allegations has not been allowed to exercise any form of ministry since February 1996.

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