Sunday 22 April 2018

Prelate is responsible for secret files

John Cooney

the latest bishop to confess publicly that he was slow to inform gardai of a clerical child abuse complaint is not nationally known but he is a pivotal backroom figure inside the hierarchy.

In his capacity as secretary to the Irish Bishops' Conference for the past 12 years, William 'Bill' Lee, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, oversees the circulation of the confidential records of a hidebound ecclesiastical system that is more protective of its secrets than gossipy cabinet ministers.

You could describe the 68-year-old as the hierarchy's walking archivist.

Born in Newport, Co Tipperary, his parents ran a public house and auctioneering business in the town.

Educated at Rockwell College, he studied for the priesthood at St Patrick's College, Maynooth, and was ordained in the Diocese of Cashel and Emly in 1966.

After gaining a doctorate in canon law at Maynooth, he spent two years in the parish of Finglas West, Dublin. A stint studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, paved the way for his appointment as professor of philosophy and bursar at St Patrick's College, Thurles, Co Tipperary.

For 15 years, he was director of the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council of Cashel Diocese. And he was president of St Patrick's College from 1987 to 1993.

Shy of publicity, Bishop Lee availed of the attention being given to Pope Benedict's acceptance of John Magee's resignation as Bishop of Cloyne to slip out to early morning broadcasting stations a statement describing as "seriously inadequate" his handling of child abuse allegations against one of his priests in the mid-1990s.

Apologising for delaying two years before telling gardai about the complaints, Bishop Lee said he particularly regretted that he had not sought the immediate withdrawal of the priest from the ministry.

Irish Independent

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