Bishop Magee steps aside over Cloyne controversy

Sat, Mar 7, 2009, 00:00

Bishop John Magee of Cloyne has been replaced in his diocesan duties following criticism over his handling of child abuse cases in the diocese.

A statement issued by the Irish Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth today said Pope Benedict had appointed the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Dr Dermot Clifford, to assume the powers and duties of the Bishop of Cloyne.

However, Bishop Magee will retain the title of Bishop of Cloyne.

The statement said Bishop Magee had made a formal request to Pope Benedict on February 4th last to appoint an apostolic administrator to carry out “the ordinary governance” of the Diocese of Cloyne.

A separate statement from the Cloyne Diocese today said the appointment of Archbishop Clifford would “enable Bishop Magee to devote the necessary time and energy to cooperating fully with the Government Commission of Inquiry into child protection practices and procedures in the Diocese of Cloyne, as he has already committed himself to do.”

The Catholic Primate, Cardinal Seán Brady, said: “The decision of the Holy Father to grant that request is an indication of the importance which the Church gives to safeguarding children and caring for the needs of victims.”

Bishop Magee had faced several calls to resign after a report, published late last year, found his diocese had responded inappropriately to sex abuse allegations and had put children at risk of harm.

The Cloyne Report, published on December 19th last, was prepared by the Catholic Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children, a body set up by the Church but independent of it. It found that child protection practices in Cloyne were “inadequate and in some respects dangerous”.

Bishop Magee addressed the people of the Diocese at Mass in St Colman’s Cathedral this evening, saying he was dedicating himself to the inquiry into child protection practices.

"You may be aware that on January 7th last the government decided to ask the Commission of Investigation into the Dublin Archdiocese to carry out an examination of the operation of practices and policies in relation to child protection in this Diocese. At that time I stated I would give every possible cooperation to the Commission in carrying out its task," he said.

"I am conscious of the fact that, as I have to give so much of my time and energy to the task ahead, conducting the normal administration of the Diocese, in all its aspects, would prove to be very difficult."

Earlier today Bishop Clifford he was looking forward to serving the people and priests of Cloyne and to giving them pastoral leadership.

"Coming from a neighbouring diocese, I know them to be a people with a proud tradition of faith. I will give every possible cooperation to the Commission of Inquiry into the Diocese of Cloyne", he said.

He also said he intended to meet with the College of Consultors, the Council of Priests, and the diocesan Child Protection Delegate as soon as possible.

Bishop Magee has served as private secretary to popes Paul VI, Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II and in 1982 he was appointed Master of Pontifical Ceremonies.