The Irish Catholic bishop criticized in the Cloyne Report for his approach to child abuse cases has finally broken his silence in the same week that victims of abusers challenged him to meet them.
Former top Vatican aide, Bishop John Magee, spoke for the first time since a statement released in his name about the damning report, which revealed the mishandling of several child sex abuse cases in the Cork diocese between 1996 and 2009.
It comes as victims have asked Bishop Magee, whose resignation was accepted by the pope last March, to meet them publicly and respond to criticisms made of him in the report.
Magee said he was “begging on bended knee for forgiveness” and was ashamed people had suffered under his watch.
“I fully understand why they are angry. I let them down by not fully implementing the guidelines which were available to me,” he said.
“I deeply regret not ensuring that the guidelines, which were my responsibility to implement, were not complied with and I ask for forgiveness for the way in which I have carried out this critically important aspect of my work.”
Magee was tracked down to his house in Mitchelstown, Co. Cork, which was provided for him by the diocese. It was the first time he has appeared in the public eye since the revelations of the damning report, which singled him out for deliberately misleading the authorities about church inquiries into the abuse.
Reiterating the statement that he issued in the wake of the report’s release earlier this summer, Magee said he took full responsibility for the diocesan failures to manage effectively allegations of child sexual abuse, but insisted he had not been aware of the full extent of the failure to protect children and expose pedophile priests until it was published.
Meanwhile, one woman who made a complaint regarding abuse to Bishop Magee in the mid-2000s criticized his failure to publicly meet victims and called on him to do so.
“I think all of us would like him to meet us publicly and apologize for the manner in which he handled our complaints,” she said.
“The Cloyne Report was damning of him and all he has done is issue a statement of apology through a public relations company. If he has any respect for us at all he should meet us, but I don’t expect him to do that because he has shown nothing but contempt for us. He’s a coward, and all he’s concerned with is looking after himself but he has a duty to meet us.”
The report found Bishop Magee misled the minister for children by claiming the church’s guidelines for handling abuse cases were being fully complied with. It also found that he falsely told the Health Service Executive that allegations of abuse were being reported to gardai.