Blow for Brady as Vatican accepts Magee resignation
EMBATTLED Cardinal Sean Brady's battle to survive as head of the Catholic Church in Ireland has received a major blow after the Pope accepted the resignation of the disgraced Bishop of Cloyne.
Bishop John Magee yesterday became the first victim of Pope Benedict's clampdown on the Irish hierarchy since his scathing criticism of how they mishandled abuse by paedophile clerics.
Dr Magee (73), a former private secretary to three popes and the most prominent casualty so far of the church abuse scandals, stepped down in March last year after an independent report found that his diocese put children at risk.
But his resignation has only now been accepted -- prompting speculation last night that Pope Benedict would now seek Dr Brady's resignation aswell.
Vatican insiders, meanwhile, are tipping a tough conservative Australian prelate to head a probe into the Irish church, which is expected to start next month.
Cardinal George Pell, the 68-year-old Archbishop of Sydney, has headed similar investigations in dioceses in his native Australia.
A possible outcome of the Apostolic Visitation, which Pope Benedict announced last Saturday, is that Cardinal Pell could propose Dr Brady's resignation or removal.
The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland last week said he was ashamed that he swore two children abused by notorious paedophile monk Brendan Smyth to secrecy -- 35 years ago.
But he insisted he would not resign unless asked to by the Pope. Dr Brady set May 23, Pentecost Sunday, as the date on which he would announce his decision -- after a period of reflection and consultation.
Pope Benedict, meanwhile, has not yet accepted the resignations of three bishops criticised in last November's shocking Murphy report into abuse cover-ups in the archdiocese of Dublin.
Bishop of Kildare Jim Moriarty expects Rome will accept his pre-Christmas resignation.
Two auxiliary Dublin bishops, Eamonn Walsh and Ray Field, who resigned on Christmas Eve, also remain in office.
Only the resignation of Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray, has been accepted by the Pope amid public outrage at the Murphy report's damning criticisms of his handling of abuse complaints when he was an auxiliary bishop in Dublin.
But Bishop of Galway, Martin Drennan, has continually refused to offer his resignation, -- insisting he did no wrong as a Dublin auxiliary bishop.
Dr Magee was ordered to cease daily duties by Pope Benedict a year ago after the church's watchdog, the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children, found he put children at risk by failing to implement nationally agreed protection safeguards in schools and parishes in his diocese. The Vatican appointed Archbishop of Cashel Dermot Clifford as caretaker-administrator.
He has since cooperated with the Murphy commission, whose mandate was extended by the Government to include Cloyne.
In a brief statement yesterday, Dr Magee again apologised to abuse victims and said: "To those whom I have failed in any way, or through any omission of mine have made suffer, I beg forgiveness and pardon."
The Irish Independent understands the Newry-born prelate was "with family and friends" last night and was unavailable for further comment at his diocesan seat at St Colman's Cathedral in Cobh, Co Cork.
Cloyne parishes had mixed reactions to the news of Bishop Magee's departure. Several admitted it was "only a matter of time" before Dr Magee stepped down.
In a statement, Cardinal Brady paid tribute to Bishop Magee's "long and varied ministry". But he added: "Foremost in my thoughts in these days are those who have suffered abuse by clergy and those who feel angry and let down by the often inadequate response of leaders in the church."