Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has led the nation’s fury over an official report into sex abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne and Catholic Church cover-ups.
Former Bishop John Magee of Cloyne, who has been missing since the report from Judge Yvonne Murphy, and is believed to be somewhere in the U.S., has had pressure piled on him to assume accountability in the aftermath of the damning report.
Cover-ups stretched all the way to the Vatican, where Magee was once a high-profile and powerful secretary to three popes. He is accused in the report of hugging and kissing a teenage boy on the forehead and telling him he dreamt about him.
So deep has been the national outrage that there has been no popular groundswell of opinion against plans by Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald to toughen legislation and make it illegal for a priest to fail to fail to report child abuse to police, even if he hears it in confession.
Shatter plans to impose jail sentences of up to five years for the failure-to-report offense.
Proposals for a visit to Ireland by Pope Benedict XVI next year are understood to have been shelved.
Leading Ireland’s fury, Martin said he did not see a situation in which Magee, who should return instantly from wherever he is abroad, would practice public ministry ever again.
“Cloyne is a model of all that can go wrong. Great damage has been done to the credibility of the Church in Ireland,” Martin said.
He acknowledged that he was aware of the disappointment that thousands of men and women in the Dublin Diocese, who had invested time and training to ensure the church would be a safe place for children, must now feel after the report on Cloyne, which includes much of Co. Cork.
While Magee, who resigned under Vatican orders in March of last year as bishop of Cloyne, has been away, a letter of apology to the victims of clerical child abuse was read out at Masses from Archbishop of Cashel and Emly Dermot Clifford, who is also running Cloyne until a replacement is appointed.
Clifford said the sexual abuse of children by priests in the diocese deserved utter condemnation. He apologized for the consistent failure to report allegations of abuse to the Gardai (police) and the health authorities.
The father of a woman abused by a priest in Cloyne backed a call by an American canon lawyer for senior administrators in the Catholic Church who conceal abuse to be prosecuted.
Jack O’Donnell, whose late daughter Maeve made a complaint to Magee that she was abused while a teenager by a Cloyne priest, supported the call by Father Tom Doyle for members of the hierarchy to be jailed for covering up abuse.
O’Donnell said, “I agree with Father Doyle. Until such time as some senior figure in the church hears a prison door clang shut behind him, then the cover-ups and the concealment will continue. Anyone engaging in a cover-up should be prosecuted and punished.”
Government plans to jail priests for up to five years if they fail to report information on child sex abuse, even if it was obtained in the confession box, put it in direct conflict with the traditional teachings of the church. A Catholic bishops spokesman said the seal of confession “places an onerous responsibility on the confessor/priest, and a breach of it would be a serious offense to the rights of penitents.”
Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny backed the tough new laws to compel priests to report pedophiles to Gardai.
“The law of the land should not be stopped by a crozier or a collar,” Kenny said. Kenny described as “absolutely disgraceful” the attitude of the Vatican to complaints of child sex abuse in the Cloyne diocese.
Papal Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza was summoned to the Department of Foreign Affairs and told to get answers from the Vatican on damning revelations in the report that it allowed priests to ignore the law.
Murphy said in her commission report that she was “not convinced” the state’s child protection laws and guidelines are sufficiently strong. She was also critical of a small number of Gardai for failing to adequately investigate three abuse claims.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan apologized to victims failed by the force and said systems are now in place to help ensure it never happens again.
Among the main findings in the Commission report were:
*The Vatican was “entirely unhelpful” to any bishop who wanted to implement procedures for dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse in the Irish church.
* The response of the Diocese of Cloyne was “inadequate and inappropriate.”
* Primary responsibility for the failure to implement agreed child sexual abuse procedures lay with then-bishop of Cloyne John Magee.
* Magee “took little or no active interest” in the management of clerical child sexual abuse cases until 2008, 12 years after the framework document on child sexual abuse was agreed by the Irish Bishops’ Conference.