Magee's abominable legacy of disgrace
Published 14/07/2011 | 05:00
Pope Benedict XIV blamed 'growing secularism' in his eventual apology for clerical sex abuse.
ALL roads from Bishop John Magee's disgrace in Cork lead back to his glory days in Rome. More specifically, they lead to the Vatican and the popes there who often had a greater influence over this Republic than the governments elected to serve its citizens.
Bishop Magee served as a private secretary to three popes and cultivated many powerful and influential friends in the sacred heart of Roman Catholicism.
When it was time to leave the splendour of the Vatican and the cocoon of a city-state run by canon law he was rewarded with a promotion to bishop and the diocese of Cloyne.
It is impossible to know how seriously he took the authority of the elected government of this State, but he had no compunction about lying to one of its ministers.
Bishop Magee also deliberately misled another inquiry and his own advisers by offering one account of a meeting with a priest suspect to the Vatican and keeping another for diocesan files.
Reading the long report, it is clear that Bishop Magee appeared to barely pay lip service to civic authority in Ireland while prostrating himself to his superiors in the Vatican. The Irish hierarchy assured the government and its congregation that its new guidelines would safeguard Irish children.
But the Vatican decided the Irish church's much-trumpeted guidelines were nothing more than a study document -- yet everyone was shocked by the latest scandal in Cloyne.
One of the most depressing elements of yesterday's chronicle of church-assisted child abuse in Cork was that they occurred in the past decade.
The Justice Minister and the Children's Minister came out with action plans as soon as the report was published yesterday.
The previous government made similar noises after the Ferns Report in 2005 and the report from the Dublin diocese in 2009.
Catholic leaders appear shocked and trot out well-honed apologies and give assurances that sound like those given after the other scandals over the past generation.
After a long incubation, Pope Benedict wrote a letter blaming "growing secularisation" in his apology for clerical sex abuse. He also appeared to relegate the civil and criminal law we all recognise to "its own area of competence" while elevating the supremacy of canon law.
Venerable old clerics like Bishop Magee who served their formative years in Rome were always going to put canon law above any man-made legislation from an elected parliament.
Yesterday's report said the Bishop of Cloyne "detached himself" from the management of child sex abuse cases until three years ago. His reputation is now in tatters and the damage he has wreaked on the church to which he dedicated his life will live on long after he has departed.