Bishop John Magee yesterday made an unequivocal apology to victims of clerical sex abuse in his former diocese of Cloyne, expressed his shame and horror at what had occurred there, and fully accepted the findings of the Cloyne Report, which severely criticised his handling of events.
The apology, like the criticism, centred on his failure to implement -- in his words, "fully implement" -- the guidelines on the issue laid down in 1996.
If thereby he had made any victim suffer more, he said, "on my bended knee I beg for forgiveness."
A plea for forgiveness is a powerful thing. Contrition, publicly and painfully expressed, deserves high praise. But even on the kindest and most generous assessment, his statement yesterday, and the manner of its delivery, were wholly inadequate.
He made it in a few short sentences to an RTE reporter, not at a press conference. He did not answer the questions to which the whole country wants answers. Crucially, if he did not know that child protection guidelines were breached, why not? And how can he fail to understand that his duty to account for himself goes farther than his former diocese?
He apologised to the Cloyne priests whom he had "let down".
But every citizen, in every location, has a stake in an issue which has provoked an astonishing crisis in relations between the Irish State and the Vatican.
And Bishop Magee still has a duty to explain himself to every citizen.