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John Magee appears in Ireland after dodging Cloyne Report

August 22, 2011

The Belfast Telegraph reported today that John Magee, the retired bishop of the diocese of Cloyne in Ireland, has been located.  Magee went into hiding following the issuance of the Cloyne report in July.  It was believed that he had fled the country and was hiding in the United States or possibly in Rome.  When asked if this had been the case Magee stated “No, I wasn’t there”.  Magee did not explain where in fact he had been hiding for the past month.

Magee fled his diocese hoping to avoid answering the charges that were made against him in the Cloyne Report.  The Cloyne Report revealed that John Magee, bishop of the diocese, oversaw the cover-up of clergy sex crimes in County Cork, Ireland.  The report examined the diocese’s response to child sexual assault reports from 1996 to 2009.  One of the most damning findings of the report was the conclusion that Magee intentionally misled civil authorities concerning the reporting of abuse to law enforcement officials.

Magee is not an inconsequential bishop of a rural diocese.  He is a person of tremendous influence in Vatican circles, having served as private secretary to three successive popes.  He was the “gatekeeper” for popes Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II.  A correspondent in Rome summed up the role of the private secretary this way “They help shape the pope’s schedule and decide who gets in and who doesn’t”.  There are few positions in the Vatican which have such importance.

The cowardice of John Magee stands in sharp contrast to the courage exhibited by victim/survivors of clergy sexual abuse in Ireland.  It was their bravery and determination in reporting the crimes committed against them which has brought the crisis in Ireland to light.  It is disheartening that Magee chose to run and hide rather than accept full responsibility for the harm that was inflicted on so many.

Magee was even called to account by his brother bishop, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, who in his homily following the publication of the Cloyne Report stated that “those in Church or State who have acted wrongly or inadequately should assume accountability”.

Magee’s brother has stated that he expects the retired bishop to respond to the Cloyne report “shortly”.  There is speculation that Magee will issue a response to coincide with the official Vatican reply.  In the meantime victim/survivors, their families, Catholics, and the community are left with unanswered questions.  The questions they seek to have answered are; who at the diocese knew about the sexual abuse that was occurring, when did they know about it, and what did they did in response.

Sound familiar?

These are the very same questions being asked by victim/survivors of clergy sex crimes throughout the world.  John Magee isn’t alone is his decision to withhold this information from those impacted by the sexual abuse crisis.  His decision to conceal what he knows about the abuse of children in his diocese has been replicated by bishops the world over.

In the archdiocese of Milwaukee victim/survivors have been in a struggle for decades with church officials to have the answers to the basic questions of “who knew what and when did they know it”.  Thanks to Judge Kelley of the US Federal Bankruptcy Court those answers may be coming soon.  Kelley ruled that the depositions of retired bishops Rembert Weakland and Richard Sklba will proceed in October.

In a compelling editorial last week the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called for the upcoming depositions of Weakland and Sklba to be made public.  Victim/survivors and their families have long pleaded with the church hierarchy to come clean and tell the truth.  Indeed the Journal Sentinel stated that they wanted to see the depositions made public because “It’s about getting at the truth.  And making sure the public knows the truth”.  They concluded that the truth of what happened is important because “It is secrecy and silence that brought the church to this point.  It’s time for that secrecy to end and for the church and the courts to shine a light on what happened”.

Bishops throughout the world should take note of what is taking place in US Federal Bankruptcy Court in Milwaukee.  Bishops can “run”, and in the case of John Magee they can even “hide” but victim/survivors and their families will not rest until the truth about what happened to them is finally revealed.

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