Newry-born Bishop resigns over mishandling of abuse

March 30, 2010

By Brónagh Murphy

The resignation of the Newry-born Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, has been accepted by Pope Benedict XVI.  The announcement was made in a news bulletin issued from the Vatican on Thursday.

Bishop Magee stood aside in March last year over his mishandling of clerical sex abuse allegations in the Cork diocese.

Bishop Magee had come under severe criticism after the Church watchdog found he took minimal action on accusations against two of his priests against whom allegations of child abuse were levelled.

A commission of inquiry, which examined how his diocese dealt with allegations of clerical sex abuse, subsequently found that the diocese’s child protection policies were ‘inadequate’ and ‘dangerous’.

“Sincere apologies”

In a statement issued from the Cloyne diocesan centre, Dr Magee (73) welcomed the acceptance of his resignation.

He extended his “sincere apologies” to any person who was abused by “any priest” during his time as bishop.

Speaking in response to the Pope’s acceptance, the former Bishop said: “I want to offer once again my sincere apologies to any person who has been abused by any priest of the Diocese of Cloyne during my time as bishop or at any time.

“To those whom I have failed in any way, or through any omission of mine have made suffer, I beg forgiveness and pardon.

“As I said on Christmas Eve 2008 after the publication report of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, I take full responsibility for the criticism of our management of issues contained in that report.”

Dr Magee added: “I welcome the fact that my offer of resignation has been accepted, and I thank the priests, religious and faithful of the Diocese for their support during my time as Bishop of Cloyne, and assure them of a place in my prayers always.”

Vatican Aide

John Magee was born in Newry in 1936 and educated at St Colman’s College before entering Kiltegan, Co Wicklow in 1954 to study for the priesthood.  His studies led him to Rome where he was ordained on 17 March 1962.

In 1969 he was appointed by Pope Paul VI to be one of his private secretaries and subsequently served as private secretary to three Popes – Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II.  He remains the only man to hold such a position in Vatican history.

He was appointed Bishop of Cloyne on the 17 February 1987 and was consecrated bishop on 17 March 1987 by Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.