Bishop urged to meet abuse victims

The Irish Times – Monday, August 22, 2011

BARRY ROCHE and CARL O’BRIEN

VICTIMS OF clerical sexual abuse have challenged former bishop of Cloyne John Magee to meet them publicly and respond to the criticisms made of him in the Cloyne report.

One woman who made a complaint of abuse to Bishop Magee in the mid-2000s, and later testified to the Commission of Investigation, criticised Bishop Magee’s failure to publicly meet victims.

“I think all of us would like him to meet us publicly and apologise for the manner in which he handled our complaints – the Cloyne report was damning of him, and all he’s done is issued a statement of apology through a public relations company,” he said.

“If he has any respect for us at all he should meet us, but I don’t expect him to do that because he has shown nothing but contempt for us – he’s a coward, and all he’s concerned with is looking after himself, but he has a duty, a duty to meet us,” she said.

Her comments follow a Sunday Independent report that Bishop McGee has returned to the parish house provided to him by his diocese in Mitchelstown, Co Cork.

His whereabouts since the publication of the Cloyne report have been unknown.

He declined to be interviewed, but later released a statement to the newspaper similar to that which he gave following the Cloyne report.

“I take this opportunity to refer once again to the statement issued on my behalf on the day the Cloyne report was published, in which I accept full responsibility for the failure of the diocese to effectively manage allegations on child abuse,” according to the statement, which appeared in yesterday’s newspaper.

“I also apologised to victims of abuse in this statement and I unreservedly apologise to these victims again today. I publicly apologised to victims in the diocese in Cobh Cathedral on Christmas Eve in 2008. I wish to point out that I answered all questions put to me by the Commission of Inquiry, and my responses are on the public record. I have nothing to add to the answers given at this time.”

The Cloyne report found that Bishop Magee misled the minister for children by claiming the church’s guidelines for handling abuse cases were being fully complied with. It also found he falsely told the Health Service Executive allegations of abuse were being reported to the Garda.

In all, two-thirds of complaints made between 1996 and 2008 were not reported to the Garda, and no complaint was passed to the executive during this period.

Another woman who gave evidence to the Commission of Investigation said yesterday Bishop Magee would have to face up to the anger of victims of clerical sexual abuse. “Bishop Magee should come forward now and hold a press conference and answer the criticisms. Archbishop [of Cashel] Dermot Clifford said it would be helpful if he was present to answer questions. At least Clifford showed us respect by holding a press conference,” she said.

“I see where Bishop Magee’s brother in Mitchelstown now has called for people to respect him – but who has respect for us, has Magee shown any respect for us? We’re entitled to feel as angry as Our Lord was in the temple with the Pharisees,” she said.

Several bishops and priests have called on Bishop Magee to answer questions in the Cloyne report. Archbishop Clifford, who took over the running of the diocese of Cloyne after Bishop John Magee stepped down, said last month he was hopeful his predecessor would speak publicly about the report’s findings.

“He will probably, I hope, come forward. This is a very excitable time. Maybe there is a time when things are quieter for him to come and meet a media group representative, which would not only tell people here, but people who know him across the world. We hope that will happen,” Bishop Clifford said in July.

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