Monday 19 February 2018

Long-delayed report to 'destroy' the bishop who failed so many

Sam Smyth, John Cooney and Dearbhail McDonald

THE reputation of the former Bishop of Cloyne is expected to be "utterly destroyed" when a report into clerical sex abuse in his diocese is published today.

The Irish Independent has learned that Dr John Magee will be lambasted for allowing free reign to a monsignor who was in charge of securing safeguards against child abuse.

A source with access to the report said: "Magee is responsible for giving free reign to Monsignor Denis O'Callaghan, who was in charge of safeguards against child abuse in the diocese."

The report follows a two-year investigation by Circuit Court Judge Yvonne Murphy into allegations of child abuse against 19 clerics in the diocese between 1996 and 2009.

Monsignor O'Callaghan, like Bishop Magee, was never accused of child abuse, but criticised for failing to prevent it or not diligently pursing allegations of it.

Sources also said the report will show a "breathtaking level of indifference" to child protection by the church and State.

It will be worse than the report into the Ferns diocese, because none of the lessons were learnt from the clerical sex abuse crisis in the Wexford area.

"The story has not changed, red flags were ignored by both the church and the state authorities," said one legal source who added that the report will demonstrate a major clash between canon and civil law.

"The Government still cannot reach into the jurisdiction of the church."


One minister, who did not want to be identified, said the behaviour of the bishop and the administration of his diocese was "as bad as anything in any other report into clerical child abuse".

The Government's immediate response to the report will be the publication, on Friday, of the new 'Children's First Guidelines'.

The guidelines will be placed on a statutory footing in a bid to restore confidence in the State's handling of sexual abuse of children by clerics.

The latest inquiry into the diocese of Cloyne was ordered after the church's own abuse watchdog found that Bishop Magee took minimal action when two of his priests were accused of abusing children.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church also said that the little action that Bishop Magee took was inappropriately delayed.

Bishop Magee apologised to victims when that inquiry's report were first published in December 2008.

Another audit commissioned by the Department of Health and published in January 2009 reported that the bishop failed to tell the authorities that one of his priests was suspected of child abuse.

The administration of the diocese was taken over by the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Dermot Clifford, before Bishop Magee formally resigned.

He has not been seen for weeks at the church property in Mitchelstown, Co Cork, to which he retired last year. The house, just metres from the town's CBS secondary school, has dominating views over the busy market town.

"The last I heard was that he was supposed to be overseas. But you don't really see him around much," said a local.

Last night sources close to the church indicated that Bishop Magee, a secretary to three Popes before his appointment as Bishop of Cloyne in 1987, was thought to be out of Ireland.

Victims will have an opportunity to study Judge Murphy's findings and recommendations for several hours before the media is briefed on the 400-page document just after lunchtime today.

One entire chapter has been edited out of the report on the directions of the High Court because of ongoing criminal proceedings against a single cleric.

•In response to today's publication of the Cloyne report, the Health Service Executive has set up a dedicated helpdesk for people who suffered clerical child sexual abuse.

Its freephone number, 1800 742800, will "go live" at 3pm today until midnight, and daily then from 8am to midnight.

Irish Independent

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