Bishop John Magee and Monsignor Denis O'Callaghan
See my article on Bishop John Magee that gives the background to this issue prior to the publication of the Cloyne Report - with particular reference to the apologies issued by the UK Guardian in 1994 and by TV3 in 1999, following allegations of sex abuse that they made against the Bishop.
In January 2009, I wrote to Judge Yvonne Murphy as she had been appointed to carry out an investigation into how Bishop John Magee and the Cloyne diocese had handled allegations of child sex abuse that had been made against its priests. I pointed out that a total of seven or eight Irish Bishops had been the subject of false and obscene allegations in the media and that Bishop Magee himself had been targeted at least once - in 1999 when TV3 had to broadcast an apology to him. In fact I wrote that he was almost certainly slandered twice because in 1994 the UK Guardian had to publish an apology to an un-named Irish Bishop - and I was reasonably sure that that was Bishop Magee also.
My main point was that Bishop Magee could not simply assume that every allegation made to him was true.
I added that I was aware of the identity of the person behind the 1994 allegation and that it was in fact a renegade priest. Since a priest was also behind one of the allegations then current, I stated that Bishop Magee had every reason to be extra careful, (even though it was definitely not the same person.)
In the reply I received from her office it was stated that:
As you may be aware, the Commission is obliged to investigate how complaints or allegations of child sexual abuse by priests were handled by various Church and State authorities. It is not charged with investigating the truth or otherwise of those complaints. I am attaching a copy of the Commission's terms of reference for your information.
In my response dated 29 January 2009, I said:
I realise that your brief is to examine how complaints of allegations were handled by Bishops and others - rather than to investigate the truth or otherwise of the allegations. However the two false allegations made against Bishop Magee (one of them claiming that he was a member of a paedophile ring) must have influenced his attitude to similar allegations made against his priests. It is simply inconceivable that Bishop Magee could have banished those allegations from his mind and acted as if they did not exist, when he was dealing with similar complaints.
I also wrote:
Items (a) and (b) of your Commission's Terms of Reference require you to examine and report on the nature of the response by the authorities to complains of child abuse. It is my contention that the nature of Bishop Magee's response must have been affected by the fact that he himself had been the target of two obscene slanders by the media, one of which bore a remarkable ressemblance to the complaint against Father A.
It is also my contention that Bishop Magee must have affected by his knowledge the vicious lies directed at another six of his episcopal colleagues. If the Chief Rabbi of Ireland was investigating sexual allegations against other Rabbis AND he knew that a series of anti-Semitic slanders had been published in the media, should he be expected to behave as if the latter did not exist? Suppose that two of the anti-Semitic slanders had been directed against against the Chief Rabbi himself, would we really expect him to ignore this when considering complaints against other rabbis?
I did not receive any further communication and Judge Murphy expressed no interest in learning the identity of the renegade priest who had libelled Bishop Magee in the UK Guardian in 1994.
On 24 July 2011, the Irish Mail on Sunday published an article that made it clear that Bishop Magee was the un-named Irish Bishop whom the Guardian had libelled in 1994.
Regarding the Background to the Cloyne Report I published the following on a number of websites:
“I am wondering what precisely all the fuss is about? For several years now the Gardai have been investigating claims of child abuse in the Cloyne Diocese and the following is the result:
An allegation of reckless endangerment against former Bishop Magee was dismissed by the Director of Public Prosecutions in October 2010.
In May 2011 Father Dan Duane a 73-year-old retired priest from Mallow, who was on trial charged with indecently assaulting a woman 30 years ago when she was a teenager, was found not guilty by direction of the trial judge in Cork Circuit Criminal Court (or in colloquial language the judge threw the case out of court without letting it go to the jury).
HOWEVER in November 2010 Fr Brendan Wrixon was given an 18 month suspended sentence for gross indecency – which consisted of mutual masturbation of a 16 year old youth in 1983.
And those to date are the results of several years of Garda inquiries. (There is another trial coming up in next November I think, and that may be the very last.) Since investigating child abuse is a specialist function, the Gardai who spent years investigating decades-old claims against priests, would otherwise have been involved in the prevention of child abuse today. THAT should be the real scandal!”
Questions Concerning the Cloyne Report
Three of the "Questions" and associated replies give a useful overall view of the Report:
8. How many allegations did the diocese receive?
The Report deals with allegations against nineteen priests, including John Magee himself --
9. John Magee? There were allegations against the Bishop?
Yes. Well, sort of. There was a troubling incident or series of incidents, but it seems that the matter in question, while inappropriate and unwise, couldn't possibly be deemed child sexual abuse. It's difficult to see what the Diocese' response to an allegation of something that certainly wasn't child sexual abuse is doing in a report on how the Diocese dealt with allegations of child sexual abuse, but there you have it. The Report's not perfect.
10. Right, so it [the Report] deals with allegations against eighteen priests. That's a lot, isn't it?
It is, though it depends on what you mean by a lot. The Devil's in the details, and when thinking of these eighteen priests, it's worth keeping mind that the Report notes that 430 priests were incardinated in the Diocese between 1932, the year in which the oldest priest covered in the Report had been ordained, and 2010, and that there has been only one case in Cloyne where a court decreed a priest guilty of any sort of sexual abuse. I think even one is one too many, really.
The Cloyne Report and Allegations against Bishop Magee
The "Thirsty Gargoyle" also points out that the chapter of the Report that details an allegation against Magee himself seems to have no relevance to the terms of reference of the Commission since it does NOT relate to child sexual abuse.
“Chapter 26 details how Magee himself is said to have inappropriately hugged a young adult male, but the Report gives no indication of when this happened. More importantly, it is unclear on the youth’s age (C26.4), despite the fact of the Report stating that although he had been accepted for a place in seminary when he was approximately 17½ years old he had to wait until he was 18 before starting his studies (C26.3), and that the youth was first hugged by the bishop at a meeting just before the start of the seminary year when he was due to begin his studies (C26.4). At least on the basis of the Report, he must have been eighteen at the time, but the Report seems unnecessarily vague on the matter. ……..
“……… I don’t see that the Magee episode as described in Chapter 26 has any place in the Report at all. I don’t dispute for a moment that it’s troubling, but what’s clear from it is that it concerns the bishop having allegedly hugged an admittedly young adult male, and having kissed him on the forehead. Everybody who considered this matter — the diocesan delegate Father Bermingham, Ian Elliott of the National Board for Safeguarding Children, Archbishop Clifford, and the Gardaí — all took the same view, which was that though Magee’s behaviour was inappropriate, given the actual details revealed and Joseph’s age at the time, the behaviour described did not constitute an allegation of child sexual abuse. Given that the remit of the Report was to report on the handling of allegations and suspicions of child sexual abuse received by the diocese of Cloyne between 1996 and 2009, I really don’t see why this is in the report at all. I’m not saying it’s good; it’s nothing of the sort. I’m just saying it’s not in the remit of the Report.”
3 August 2011 Updated 8 August