Magee goes into hiding after report on sex abuse
Retired bishop thought to be in US but will return 'in a few weeks'
Published 17/07/2011 | 05:00
THE retired Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, who has not been seen since the damning report on his handling of child sex abuse allegations was published, will return to Ireland within weeks, according to his brother.
Bishop Magee has reportedly not been seen at his home in Mitchelstown in north Cork for over a month. He is believed to have gone to the US.
Yesterday, a man claiming to be his brother answered the telephone at his home. He said he was not at liberty to disclose where the bishop was but said he would be "back in a couple of weeks".
He said: "He will be back in the country at some point." The gentleman declined to give his name but said he was a brother of Bishop Magee. He also declined to comment on the Cloyne Report.
The report revealed a widespread cover-up of abuse within the Cloyne diocese, with the bishop taking little interest in child-abuse allegations, while Monsignor Denis O'Callaghan, who looked after such cases, failed to report suspect priests to gardai.
Only six of 15 cases of alleged child abuse were reported to gardai between 1996 and 2005.
Bishop Magee was accused of taking "little or no" active interest in managing such cases until 2008, and the report found that he had to take responsibility for the failures of his diocese to follow church guidelines on abuse.
Bishop Magee is under enormous pressure to return to acknowledge his mistakes in person. Two bishops last week called on him to return to give an account of his actions in person. And Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald said it would have been helpful for all of the victims if Bishop Magee "had been there to respond".
She added: "From a responsibility point of view, I would have welcomed his presence. But he decided not to be there."
The Cloyne Report also disclosed that Bishop Magee was himself the subject of an allegation of inappropriate behaviour. A man two years ago claimed that, when he was 17 and an aspiring priest, Bishop Magee had embraced him, kissed him on the forehead and told him he loved him and dreamed about him.
The incident was deemed inappropriate behaviour rather than sexual abuse.
Clergy have used canon law and the primacy of the confessional to justify their failure to report allegations of abuse to gardai in the past.
Simon Harris, a Fine Gael TD for Wicklow, said yesterday that the Catholic hierarchy should insist that all priests undergo garda vetting. He said while a majority of 2,200 priests had voluntarily undergone garda vetting, a number had refused. "This means that there are still a number of priests who have refused to be vetted and this is simply unacceptable," he said.
"The archbishops know who these priests are and they must act immediately and mandate that they undergo garda vetting. In the event of a priest declining to undergo vetting, he should be removed from any pastoral duties involving children until such time as he does."
Meanwhile, a Facebook campaign has begun to urge the Government to expel the Papal Nuncio, the Vatican's diplomatic representative, over the latest investigation into the Diocese of Cloyne, writes Don Lavery.
The page, which has more than 5,000 members, urges expelling the Nuncio over the report's findings.
The campaign says: " If we are to take the reports' findings seriously, we must expel the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza."
Followers are urged to write to ministers and TDs saying: "A message must be sent in the clearest of ways. The Papal Nuncio past and present made deliberate decisions to stonewall our country's efforts to find the truth about child sex abuse by the Catholic Church and to prevent its recurrence.
"He did so in his official capacity as the ambassador of a foreign state, the Vatican. The Irish State must now expel the Papal Nuncio."