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Cloyne: Magee, Vatican slated over sex abuse claims

Former bishop John Magee has been given a damning assessment in the long-awaited, 400 page Cloyne report into clerical abuse.

Retired Bishop John Magee has been singled out for failing to follow Church rules on reporting clerical sex abuse in an Irish diocese as recently as three years ago.

A fourth damning inquiry into the church lays the blame for the mishandling of allegations with the former Vatican aide who served as personal secretary to three popes.

The judge-led investigation into his inadequate attempts to deal with abusive clerics launched a withering attack on the former Bishop of Cloyne in Co Cork for attempting to blame subordinates for his failures.

The long-awaited report also found his second-in-command Monsignor Denis O'Callaghan did not approve of the Church's protection guidelines, in particular the need to alert the police, and "stymied" child abuse policy.

"It is a remarkable fact that Bishop Magee took little or no active interest in the management of clerical child sexual abuse cases until 2008," the shocking 400-page report found.

The inquiry - headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy, who in 2009 exposed a damning catalogue of failures in the Dublin Archdiocese - found the Catholic hierarchy in Cloyne was resisting church policy 12 years after a framework document on child protection was adopted in 1996.

The commission's devastating criticisms go right to the top of the Catholic Church.

It lambasted the Vatican and accused it of an "entirely unhelpful" reaction for referring to the Irish Church's mandatory reporting guidelines as merely a study document.

It found the response from Rome effectively gave a carte blanche to the likes of Bishop Magee to ignore the guidelines and offered "comfort and support" to senior clerics such as Monsignor O'Callaghan who dissented from official Irish Church policy on paedophile priests.

John Magee stood down from day-to-day duties in March 2009 and resigned a year later.

In one of its most damning assessments, the report states the Cloyne scandal was different from others, because it dealt with allegations after 1996.

That was the year the Catholic Church brought in the child sex abuse guidelines and protection policies, and two years after revelations about paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth "convulsed" the country, the report said.

The commission said this ruled out any past excuses for the poor handling of allegations reported in other dioceses such as Dublin and Ferns.

The commission was alerted to concerns about 33 priests - only one of them unnamed - but could investigate only 19 because the others were not connected to Cloyne or the allegations related to periods outside their timeframe, between January 1996 and February 2009.

The report found there were concerns raised about almost 8% of the 163 priests serving in Cloyne in 1996. Some 40 victims have been identified.

The inquiry found Bishop Magee ignored the report of an indepedent expert drafted in to Cloyne in 2003, who warned the diocese was not following rules on child sex abuse allegations.

Bishop Magee initially told the commission he did not see the report until five years after it was completed, but later said he was mistaken and did see it at the time it was produced in 2004.

The commission said: "Clearly, he did not read it then or, if he did, he did not take its message on board or he chose to ignore it."

The report notes the bishop told the children's minister in 2005 that Church guidelines were fully in place and being fully complied with.

The commission said if he had read the 2004 internal report or checked with Monsignor O'Callaghan, he would have known this was not the case.

Later, in January 2007, he told the Health Service Exectuive (HSE) the diocese reported any complaints to the HSE or the gardai.

"This was not true," the commission states.

The commission said the failure by both Bishop Magee and Monsignor O'Callaghan to read and take heed of the internal 2004 report was "quite extraordinary".

The report found that in a number of cases where Church authorities were made aware of alleged abuse, they made no attempt to find out if there were other suspected victims and did not report many incidents to the gardai.

The report states the greatest failure in the scandal was that Cloyne authorities did not report all allegations to the gardai.

The commission dismissed a defence by Bishop Magee that he was shocked that Church guidelines were not adhered to and his insistence that he fully backed them.

"It became clear during the course of this investigation that Bishop Magee had, to a certain extent, detached himself from the day-to-day management of child sexual abuse cases," the report states.

"Bishop Magee was the head of the diocese and cannot avoid his reponsibility by blaming subordinates whom he wholly failed to supervise."

But while the report states Bishop Magee must take ultimate responsibility, Monsignor O'Callaghan was singled out for having stymied the child abuse policy.

Of the 19 priests investigated, two still serve Cloyne, four are retired, including Bishop Magee - who no longer lives in the diocese - with just two of them with restrictions on their ministry.

One is out of ministry, one is living within a religious order, with some restrictions on his ministry, while another has left the priesthood.

In one case, where a priest admitted abusing at least four children, there was no attempt by either the Church or the Garda to find out if the cleric had targeted anyone else. The report also notes the Garda was not told about all the admissions made by the priest.

Only one priest from Cloyne has been convicted, as another won a Supreme Court appeal to stop his trial over his age, ill health and delays.

Of 15 complaints to the diocese between 1996 and 2005, nine were not reported. The 15 cases did not include other concerns or allegations already known to the gardai.

The most serious lapse was found to be the case in which the alleged victims were still children when the complaints were made, the commision said.

The report highlighted a "most unusual and unacceptable" case where Monsignor O'Callaghan reported an alleged victim's name to gardai but not the perpetrator.

"He failed to understand that the requirement to report was for the protection of other children," it said.

Nine of the priests involved are dead and one unnamed priest is presumed dead.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said that a small number of cases where the Garda handling of allegations has been called into question have been handed over to the Garda Ombudsman.

On the inquiry, he said: "Many of its findings are for others to account for. But for any failings on the part of the State through the years, we express our profound sorrow.

"This report is about just some of those who, as children, were abused by people they respected as arbiters of right and wrong - whose complaints were handled atrociously - and who now find that some of the promises that were made that other children would be kept safe were empty."

The Government said it will set up a vetting bureau, with new laws enacted in the autumn to allow the sharing of soft information on people wishing to work with children.

There are also plans to bring in laws making it an offence to withhold information on crimes against children and vulnerable adults.

Cardinal Sean Brady, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, described the failings in Cloyne as "deplorable and totally unacceptable".

Archbishop of Cashel and Emly Dermot Clifford, the Apostolic Administrator of Cloyne, apologised.

"I am appalled by the depth of damage and suffering caused by a minority of clergy in the Diocese, as outlined in this report," the Archbishop said.

"Great pain was also caused to the families of those abused, whose strong relationship with the Catholic Church was, in a number of cases, damaged or destroyed."

The Archbishop said: "It appals me that, up to 2008, 13 years after these procedures were put in place, they were still not being implemented in the Diocese of Cloyne.

"It is a very sad day for all the priests and people in the Diocese of Cloyne. We sincerely hope that our responses to complaints and the ongoing efforts in safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults in the Diocese will go some of the way to atone for the grave failures of the past. Such failures must never be permitted to happen again."

Mr Shatter also criticised the communications that the inquiry received from the Papal Nuncio in Dublin - the Vatican`s Ambassador to Ireland.

He said it was a "matter of seriousness" that Rome claimed it could not help the investigation and said Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore would have to decide how to act on that.

Mr Shatter said it was "unfortunate and unacceptable" that the actions of the Catholic hierarchy and representative of an outside state, the Vatican, may have contributed to failures.

The minister added he wants assurances from the bishops in Ireland that guidelines to protect children are being fully complied with in every diocese.

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