Magee Was Investigated by Church Over 1980s Allegations
Author who uncovered claims warned about legal action by bishop's lieutenant.
The Irish Mail on Sunday, 24 July 2011 by Warren Swords
Bishop of Cloyne John Magee was investigated by the Church almost 20 years ago over allegations about his private life, the Irish Mail on Sunday can reveal.
A number of allegations were understood to have been made about the bishop while he was away in London on business in the Eighties.
However, a Church inquiry found that there was no basis for the claims, which cannot be repeated for legal reasons and Magee was exonerated.
It has never previously been disclosed that the bishop was the subject of an investigation by the Church in Ireland.
However, the news may revive speculation as top why the ambitious cleric left the Vatican, where he served as private secretary to three popes, for the post of Bishop of Cloyne in the 1980s. At the time, the move was seen as a demotion for the Newry cleric.
It also raises questions as to why the Church trusted him with such a senior post in Ireland.
A 2002 lettter sent from administrative centre of the Cloyne dioces to an American investigative journalist reveals the full rigour with which the Church investigated 'the nasty allegation' against Magee.
The alleged incident was alleged to have occured in the late 1980s at a hotel in Kensington in Londan.
US author Joseph Rigert, wanted to include the allegations in his book, An Irish Tragedy: How Sex Abuse by Irish Priests Helped Cripple the Catholic Church.
In 2002, Mr. Rigert wrote the the diocese of Cloyne in Cork including the allegation against Magee. He received a terse reply in which legal action was threatened.
The Church said that the bishop had been cleared of any wrongdoing.
The Church representative who reiterated the Church's findings that Magee had no case to answer was Monsignor Denis O'Callaghan, the bishop's deputy who was heavily criticised in last week's Cloyne Report for failing to report complaints to gardai.
The letter to Mr. Rigert which is dated October 29th, 2002 states: "You have repeated an allegation that was made over 10 years ago and which was then investigated and found to be without foundation. ...
"I know that a huge amount of time and energy was devoted to investigating this nasty allegation, and the conclusion was that it was without any basis whatsoever.
"Strong suspicions indeed exist as to the source of it."
The monsignor, who was vicar general at the time goes on: "If any complaint of sexual wrongdoing is made against anybody in this diocese, the matter is taken very seriously" and that "appropriate action" would be taken by Church authorities.
"You will appreciate that while it is important that valid complaints should be investigated and people who have done wrong should be dealt with decisively and appropriatly, it is a heinous wrong to falsely accuse an innocent person of wrongdoing and take their good name.
"In such circumstances, people .... have no alternative but to protect their good names, if necessary by invoking the protection of the law.
"I am sure you would not want to put any innocent person through the ordeal of such unnecessary litigation and I am sure that you only want he truth to prevail. The truth in this case is that allegation you were told is a ... malicious lie."
The monsignor ended by saying that he would pray for the "healing of all victims of abuse, and for healing for wrongdoers that they may repent and see the error of the ways". He suggested that Mr. Rigert shoud do the same.
The allegation put to the diocese in 2002 by Mr. Rigert is separate to the one in the Cloyne Report, where a young man alleged Magee embraced him for a minute.
In the same report, the Vatican was found to have been "entirely unhelpful" and to have given "comfort and support" to Church figures who had failed to follow Church policy.
Magee the Centre of Inquiry 20 Years Ago
Irish Daily Mail, Monday, 25 July 2011 by Martin Frawley
The Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee was investigated by the Church over an alleged incident that occured in a hotel in Kensington, London more than 20 years ago, it has emerged.
But an inquiry, carried out by the Church, found that there was no basis for the claims, and Bishop Magee was exonerated - though the allegations and the result of the inquiry were never made public.
The fact that there even was an inquiry into the controversial bishop's private life when he was in London on business, arose when the Cloyne diocese responded to a letter from a US-based investigative journalist.
The journalist, Joseph Rigert, wanted to include more detail on the allegations in his book An Irish Tragedy: How Sex Abuse by Irish Priests Helped Cripple the Catholic Church.
But the then Bishop's deputy Monsignor Denis O'Callaghan, who was heavily criticised in the Cloyne Report for failing to report abuse to the gardai, replied to to Rigert that the bishop had been cleared of any wrongdoing.
He said: "If any complaint of sexual wrongdoing is made against anybody in this diocese, the matter is taken very seriously and the appropriate action would be taken by the Church authorities."
Monsignor O'Callaghan added that while all complaints are fully investigated, he reminded Rigert that it is a 'heinous wrong' to falsely accuse an innocent person of wrongdoing.
"In such circumstances, people have no alternative but to protect their good names, if necessary by invoking the protection of the law", Monsignor O'Callaghan told the journalist in a clear threat to take legal action if he persisted by reporting details of the allegations.
These allegations which cannot be detailed for legal reasons, are different to those in the Cloyne report that Bishop Magee had kissed a seminarian on the forehead and held him in an embrace for an inordinately long period.
Tom Cronin, chairman of the Irish Survivors of Institutional Abuse International, strongly believes that the bishop should now stand up to the Londan allegations made against him and not hide as he has done following the publication of the damning Cloyne report.
He told our sister paper, The Irish Mail on Sunday: "I'd heard of the allegations. They should be investigated but not by the Church but by an independent body."
Certainly, it put a whole new perspective on why Bishop Magee chose to quit Rome where he was secretary to three different Popes, to take up the post in Cloynne, said Cronin.
He added: "You don't leave Rome for Cobh unless you have to."
"Bishop Magee should be happy to have these allegations investigated if, as the Church says, he is innocent", says Mr. Cronin, who fronts the body that helps and supports victims of abuse in industrial schools.
Meanwhile, there is still no sign of Bishop Magee despite Taoiseach Enda Kenny's withering "swish of the soutane" speech in the Dail last week in which he warned that the Vatican cannot ever be above the laws of the land.
Mr. Cronin believes that Bishop Magee should also face the consequences over the Cloyne report.
He said: "If he has nothing to hide he should stand up."
But he was also critical of the Church for "colluding" with Magee to keep him in hiding, claiming that the Church has to be paying his accomodation wherever he is.
Though retired, Bishop Magee is still a member of the Church and he is being protected by the Church, said Mr. Cronin.
"This collusion by the Church is appalling" he added.
"If he [Bishop Magee] gets away with it and is seen to get away, what will stop others doing the same thing over and over again", said Cronin.
The ISIAI chairman said that while the Taoiseach's attack on the Vatican last week was all very well it was stuill only words - nothing has changed.
Describing himself as Christian first, Mr. Cronin said that not everybody in the Catholic Church is bad.
"But it's like trying to drag teeth out of a hen. They have to forget about their Church and go with what's right," he said.
Mr. Cronin believes that Bishop Magee is still unlikely to face the Irish people for some time yet.