Cloyne clerical abuse cover-up: Magee apology provokes fury
Published 23/08/2011 | 05:00
FORMER Bishop of Cloyne John Magee was today accused of "distorted thinking" and "not taking responsibility" for the extent of his cover-up over the years to protect clergy in the diocese of Cloyne.
The Director of One in Four, Maeve Lewis, said that it appeared the bishop "didn't get the gravity of his failures" on foot of his interview on RTE last night in which he said he felt "ashamed" over what happened.
While welcoming his apology to victims, Ms Lewis stressed that an interview on a doorstep to an RTE reporter was not the way to explain why he had failed to do his duty to the people of the diocese.
She said that he should hold a full press conference where there would be an opportunity to fully explain his conduct in front of journalists.
Ms Lewis said that she was also conscious that attempts to put him in front of the public could be now sees as a "witch hunt of an old man" instead of getting a person in authority to take responsibility for his failures.
Bishop Magee's interview was welcomed by a spokesman for the Irish bishops but the Association of Catholic Priests also criticised Bishop Magee for not understanding the impact that clerical sex abuse has on victims.
The controversy over the issue was heightened today when a well known priest launched a blistering attack on the bishop over his belated attempt at an apology to victims in the Cloyne diocese.
Father Michael Mernagh - who shot to prominence three years ago by walking from his parish in Cork to Dublin - said the Bishop's apology was not enough.
Describing the Bishop's apology as “hollow” Fr. Mernagh made a personal appeal to him on what he needed to do to show true sorrow for his failures to the diocese.
In an emotional appeal, Fr Mernagh said Bishop Magee should "remove himself completely from the good people of North Cork - go back to a monastery of your order and continue to do that penance."
He added: "What you need to do is to go out in front of the Cathedral in Cobh and there in a purple robe of penance, prostrate yourself for some time, for some days, in fasting and in prayer, and be open to hear the criticism and whatever the people and priests and others would have to say".
Fr. Mernagh objected to the Bishop's 'terms' in which he would meet victims of abuse in the diocese saying that action was needed and not on his terms.
Dr Magee (74) last night offered to meet the victims of clerical child abuse in his former diocese in a bid to help ease their pain and suffering.
The former papal secretary broke his silence after weeks of lying low in the wake of the damning Cloyne Report, which identified a series of child protection failings during his time as bishop.
Dr Magee apologised for his shortcomings and said he was "horrified and ashamed" over what had happened in his Cork diocese.
But abuse victim and campaigner Andrew Madden described the statement as "empty words" and said Dr Magee faced a number of unanswered questions.
The disgraced bishop -- who returned to his retirement property yesterday -- also pleaded for privacy.
Dr Magee will live in retirement in Mitchelstown, Co Cork -- with the parish insisting the two-storey house was provided to him out of "Christian charity". His brother, Hugh, informed callers to the Parochial House yesterday that Dr Magee was "not available".
But the Newry-born cleric issued his third statement on the controversy in six weeks.
He insisted that he did not know that child protection guidelines in Cloyne were not being implemented fully.
However, Dr Magee did not specifically refer to a number of issues raised by the shocking Cloyne Report -- or demands from church officials, politicians and victims that he hosts a full press conference.
Dr Magee left Ireland before the report was published on July 13 and spent most of the past two months in the UK.
And last night he insisted he was conscious of the victims' suffering.
Dr Magee said: "I want to say that I feel there is nothing I can say now which will ease the pain and distress for victims. I let them down by not fully implementing the guidelines.
"I deeply, deeply regret not ensuring that the guidelines, which were my responsibility to implement, were not complied with.
"I feel ashamed that this happened under my watch -- it should never have and I truly apologise. If through my not fully implementing the 1996 guidelines that we had I have made any victim suffer more, on my bended knee I beg for forgiveness.
"I would be very willing to meet with victims and their families privately, if they so wish and if they felt this could help in any way."
Last night, one victim welcomed Dr Magee's apology and offer to meet victims -- but added: "It is good to hear him say 'sorry' but this isn't the end of it, not by a long shot."
Mr Madden said: " It is hard to imagine such empty words being of any comfort or assistance to anyone."