Thursday 18 January 2018

Bishops clashed on Magee resignation


John Cooney

ARCHBISHOP of Dublin Diarmuid Martin and Cashel and Emly Archbishop Dermot Clifford clashed over whether Bishop John Magee should resign.

A dramatic section of the Cloyne report lifts the lid of secrecy on hierarchy meetings in Maynooth, Co Kildare.

Judge Yvonne Murphy reported on the intrigues that took place at an emergency meeting in late January 2009.

The clash between the archbishops took place against the immediate background of the damning report of Bishop Magee by Ian Elliot, the chief executive of the church's child protection watchdog.

It also took place just days after the then Fianna Fail-Green Coalition gave the green light for the Murphy Commission of Investigation into the Archdiocese of Dublin to extend its probe to the Cloyne diocese in Co Cork.

Judge Murphy discovered that, in addition to holding an Extraordinary Conference of the Episcopal Conference, some 20 bishops also held an informal meeting to discuss the crisis situation confronting Bishop Magee.

"The stronger arguments in favour of resignation were made by Archbishop Martin and three or four others," the report said.

"Archbishop Clifford's own view at the time was that, as the HSE and Mr Elliot had expressed the view that they were satisfied that complaints were being handled correctly in the diocese of Cloyne, there was no need for Bishop Magee to resign."

But Archbishop Clifford later told the commission "he subsequently changed his initial view that Bishop Magee should not resign and had come to agree with Archbishop Martin." In his evidence to the commission, Cardinal Sean Brady, who chaired the meeting, recalled that Bishop Magee raised the Elliot report, explained his position and offered to absent himself to allow the issues to be discussed.

Cardinal Brady, who that January had incurred media and public anger by supporting Bishop Magee's staying on in Cloyne, had by now come to the view that the embattled Magee "should be available to fully assist the commission".


Cardinal Brady convened a third meeting, which was attended by Bishop Magee; Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore, Co Down; and Bishop Colm O'Reilly of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Co Longford.

The prelates asked Bishop Magee "to consider various options, including standing aside as bishop to allow an administrator to take over".

Bishop Magee agreed to think about this, according to the report. But even more intriguingly, the Cloyne Report goes on to reveal the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Guiseppe Leanza, was present at the Maynooth meeting.

Archbishop Leanza "had a private session with Bishop Magee, while the other bishops were having their informal meeting", it said.

The commission claimed it didn't know what was said by the Archbishop Leanza.

But it deduces from a later letter from Bishop Magee to the Nuncio, that the Pope's man in Dublin "also suggested to Bishop Magee that he should step down as Bishop of Cloyne for the duration of the commission's work".

Four days later, Bishop Magee asked the Pope to appoint an apostolic administrator to Cloyne.

It also emerged that Rome ignored four candidates -- two priests and two bishops -- suggested by Bishop Magee. It instead appointed Archbishop Clifford as the Cloyne trouble-shooter.

Irish Independent

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