The disgraced former Archbishop of Cloyne John Magee has turned up in his native Cork, claimed he wasn’t in America and refused to comment on the controversial report into his handling of clerical sex abuse claims.
The Sunday Independent newspaper tracked Magee down to the parish house in Mitchelstown which the Church provided after his retirement as Archbishop of Cloyne.
Dr Magee told the paper that he was happy to re-iterate his apology to victims of clerical sex abuse in his diocese but said he had "nothing to add" to his comments made to the commission of inquiry which found the church guilty of serious mishandling of clerical child-abuse allegations in his diocese.
Bishop Magee had gone into hiding after the sensational Cloyne Report was published and he was accused of failing to report abuse cases to the civil authorities.
The Cloyne Report also sparked a major row between the Vatican and the Irish government with prime minister Enda Kenny particularly critical of the Holy See’s behavior.
The Sunday Independent found Magee at the parish house in Mitchelstown where he agreed to be photographed but refused to make any further comment.
He did deny that he had fled to America in the wake of the Cloyne Report.
“No, I wasn’t there,” he told reporter Maeve Sheehan as he smiled during their meeting on Thursday, after he had arrived home in a car driven by his brother Hugh.
“There will be no interview, treat him with respect. That’s all I ask and I’m asking that as his brother,” said Hugh.
Bishop Magee then issued a statement to the Sunday Independent on Friday.
In the carefully prepared statement, Dr Magee said: “I take this opportunity to refer once again to the statement issued on my behalf on the day the Cloyne Report was published, in which I accept full responsibility for the failure of the diocese to effectively manage allegations on child sexual abuse.
“I also apologized to victims of abuse in this statement and I unreservedly apologize to these victims again today. I publicly apologized to victims of abuse in the diocese in Cobh Cathedral on Christmas Eve, 2008.
“I wish to point out that I answered all questions put to me by the Commission of Inquiry and my responses are on the public record, as part of the published report. I have nothing to add to the answers given at this time.
“I offered my resignation to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on the 9th March, 2010 and this was accepted. I am a retired bishop living at a house so kindly provided for my use in the parish of Mitchelstown.”
Critics and clergy alike have called on Dr Magee to go public and answer the allegations made against him in the damning Cloyne Report.
Dr Dermot Clifford, now in charge of the Cloyne diocese, told the Sunday Independent that it would have been helpful if Bishop Magee had personally faced the media.
The Bishop of Elphin Dr Christopher Jones said: “I would genuinely like to see him back in his diocese and answering questions as pastor of his flock.”
Sources close to Dr Magee believe he is working on a more detailed statement addressing aspects of the Cloyne Report, which could be released in weeks, rather than days.