People and Politics by Patrick Roberts
New Irish church inquiry slams former Bishop John Magee -- Says secretary to three popes 'kissed and embraced' teenage boy
Posted on Wednesday, July 13, 2011 at 06:32 AM
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The disgraced Bishop of Cloyne in Cork John Magee is heavily criticised in a report today for refusing to follow guidelines laid out by the Catholic Church in regards to abusive priests.
Questions were also raised about Magee's own actions the report said, "concerns were expressed about (Magee's) interaction with a 17-year-old boy" whom the bishop kissed and embraced, an experience that the teenager found "disquieting." But the report concluded that the incident was eventually handled correctly.
RTE, Ireland's state owned station said that "The concerns relate to a young man 'Joseph', who was accepted into the priesthood but who later, for family reasons, decided not to take up the vocation.
The report stated that "At a subsequent meeting with Bishop Magee, which was the first time he had spent time alone with the bishop, Joseph reported that the bishop embraced him tightly for around a minute and at the same time asked if it 'felt good'.
"Joseph also stated that Bishop Magee kissed him on the forehead. Joseph also claimed that the bishop told him he loved him and that he dreamt about him."
The report issued by the Irish government finds that 19 priests in his diocese were accused of abuse over a 13 year period from January 1996 to February 2009.
The 400 page report is heavily critical of the former Bishop for refusing to act on numerous sexual abuse reports, even when the Catholic Church had issued strict new guidelines.
The report runs 400 pages and 26 chapters, it covers a time when the Catholic Church in Ireland had introduced its own child protection guidelines.
The report was completed last December but has only been released now because of legal issues.One chapter is blacked out because of an ongoing abuse case.
The report focuses on Magee's reluctance to root out sex offenders in his diocese.
It is just the latest controversy involving the Newry-born cleric who has been at the right hand of incredible papal power for much of his life.
He will bring at least two other dark secrets to his grave with him. He resigned in 2010 after a tribunal found he had blatantly failed to implement church regulations on abuse of children and has been in seclusion since.
It is a dramatic fall from the heights of the Vatican and the papal inner circle.
Magee was Secretary to three Popes, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II, the only cleric in history to achieve such an incredible honor.
John Cooney, an Irish journalist covering religious affairs, wrote how Magee proudly boasted that Pope Paul VI treated him like a son, and that John Paul II treated him like a brother.
According to Cooney, he was considered the "most handsome man" in the Vatican and had incredible access to the Popes. He lived in a wonderful villa on the Vatican grounds.
It even had a private chapel, and he loved to entertain friends from Ireland and arrange meetings with the Pope for a chosen few.
He was widely expected to return to Ireland in triumph as Archbishop of Armagh, his home diocese, and be the future Primate of All Ireland.
But John Paul 11 banished him to a lonely Cork diocese in 1987, when Magee was at the height of his power. The job of Bishop of Cloyne was intended for someone else, but John Paul insisted that Magee go.
He was never liked by the priests there, who considered him a Vatican outsider who was dumped on them. The Bishop's house was a sad, drafty old building in need of repair, totally unlike his Vatican villa.
The reasons why he was exiled to Cloyne have never been explained.
Rumors ran rampant, including involvement in a cover-up of the death of John Paul I and unspecified personal behavior charges, but nothing ever came to light.
What is known is that in 1978, on the death of John Paul I after only 33 days as Pope, Magee covered up the fact that a nun found him, and a statement was issued that he was the person who discovered the body.
Why this was so has never been explained.
Nor was the fact that he was briefly brought back to Rome immediately when Pope John Paul II died for unspecified duties.
By all accounts, he went into a deep funk when posted to Cloyne, a minor diocese in Ireland far from his beloved Armagh.
His lack of oversight of the child abuse problems in his parish were seen as a sign of his total disinterest in his new duties.
Now he is gone, and the mystery of how he ever ended up in Cloyne, or why he tried to mask the truth of who found the body of John Paul I, may never be known.
In "Angels and Demons," Dan Brown's prequel to "The Da Vinci Code," an ambitious Irish priest close to the Pope almost becomes Pope himself by plotting and eliminating enemies during a papal conclave. The book's Rev. Patrick McKenna may well have been loosely based on Magee.
Whatever lofty ambitions Magee had, they have long since ended, and he resigned in disgrace.
It was surely not the script he had written for himself.
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