Vatican shelters Magee as abuse report fury grows

THE Vatican is today protecting disgraced Bishop John Magee.

Magee is now believed to be hiding out in Rome following the latest scandal to hit the Church. Insiders believe he is being protected by the Vatican and Pope Benedict amid the furore of the damning Cloyne Report.

The Vatican has so far refused to comment on the report which accuses Magee of lying to the state about the protection of children.

Pressure is now growing on the Church to call the Bishop to account.

The report shows that the Catholic Church was ignoring its own guidelines of child protection as recently as 2009.

It also says that Bishop Magee kissed and touched a teenage boy in a manner described by investigators as “inappropriate behaviour”.

Bishop Magee’s exact whereabouts remained a mystery today as pressure was growing on the Catholic Church to call the bishop to account.

He has not commented on the report or made himself available to answer questions from the media.

A visibly shaken Archbishop Dermot Clifford said he would have been “very happy” if Bishop Magee was in front of the press responding to questions about the Cloyne report instead of him.

“I’d be very happy if he was sitting here in this seat and it’s a pity that he isn’t,” he told a press conference in Cork after the publication of the report.

The diocese’s caretaker bishop, who is also the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, described himself as “having distanced himself from John Magee” in recent years and had not any contact with him recently.

He said he believed that the former Bishop of Cloyne was out of the country.

Bishop Magee has been accused of lying to the State over child protection procedures in the Cloyne Diocese where he and a senior assistant failed a succession of victims of clerical sex abuse.

The report also reveals that Bishop Magee was the subject of a complaint over an alleged inappropriate incident with a teenage boy. His actions were deemed to be “inappropriate behaviour” rather than abuse.

It took diocesan authorities three months to report on the matter to gardai once they were made aware of the allegations.

A file was later sent to the DPP who recommended no charges be brought against the bishop.

The complaint centred on an incident where Dr Magee “tightly” embraced a 17-year-old boy, referred to in the report as “Joseph” and allegedly kissed him on the forehead.

Joseph, who had been contemplating entering the priesthood, had a number of further meetings with the bishop, some when he was under 18 and some when he was over 18.

Dr Magee later denied kissing Joseph on the forehead but said he had made the sign of the cross on his forehead.

He acknowledged telling Joseph he loved him but later explained his intention “was to comfort the young man who was upset by family problems”.

Dr Magee was referred to a “boundary counsellor” who outlined what “constituted good practice in the area of touch in the context of pastoral relationship.”

The commission found that the case was dealt with appropriately.

Ex-bishop slammed over child abuse

A retired Catholic bishop has been singled out for failing to follow Church rules on reporting clerical sex abuse in an Irish diocese as recently as three years ago.

A fourth damning inquiry into the church in Ireland lays the blame for the mishandling of allegations with John Magee – a former Vatican aide who served as personal secretary to three popes.

The judge-led investigation into his inadequate attempts to deal with abusive clerics launched a withering attack on the former Bishop of Cloyne in Co Cork for attempting to blame subordinates for his failures.

The long-awaited report also found his second-in-command Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan did not approve of the Church’s protection guidelines, in particular the need to alert the police, and “stymied” child abuse policy.

“It is a remarkable fact that Bishop Magee took little or no active interest in the management of clerical child sexual abuse cases until 2008,” the shocking 400-page report found.

The inquiry – headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy, who in 2009 exposed a damning catalogue of failures in the Dublin Archdiocese – found the Catholic hierarchy in Cloyne was resisting church policy 12 years after a framework document on child protection was adopted in 1996.

The commission’s devastating criticisms go right to the top of the Catholic Church.

It lambasted the Vatican and accused it of an “entirely unhelpful” reaction for referring to the Irish Church’s mandatory reporting guidelines as merely a study document.

It found the response from Rome effectively gave a carte blanche to the likes of Bishop Magee to ignore the guidelines and offered “comfort and support” to senior clerics such as Monsignor O’Callaghan who dissented from official Irish Church policy on paedophile priests.

John Magee stood down from day-to-day duties in March 2009 and resigned a year later.

In one of its most damning assessments, the report states the Cloyne scandal was different from others, because it dealt with allegations after 1996.

Church did not live up to own guidelines and put children at risk

A damning report into the handling of child sex abuse allegations in the Cloyne diocese (Ireland)  has found the hierarchy in Cloyne was resisting its own church policy 12 years after a framework document on child protection was adopted in 1996.

In addition, the Vatican was “entirely unhelpful” to any bishop who wanted to implement procedures for dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse in the Irish Catholic Church, saying the framework document on child sexual abuse, agreed by the Irish Bishops Conference in 1996, was “not an official document.”

This gave individual bishops, “the freedom to ignore” the guidelines, branded by the Vatican as a “study document.”

According to the 400-page report, there were 15 cases between 1996 and 2005 that “very clearly” should have been reported by the diocese to the Gardaí, but only six were reported.

The report by Judge Yvonne Murphy (who also led the investigation into the Dublin diocese), scrutinises how both Catholic Church and State authorities handled allegations of abuse against 19 priests in the County Cork diocese.

It is not an investigation into child sexual abuse by priests but into the handling of allegations.

The Church comes out very badly, the state less so.

The response of Gardaí was “generally adequate,” said the report.

The report covers the period from 1996 (when the Church had introduced its own child protection framework), until 2008.

It found that the response of the Diocese of Cloyne was “inadequate and inappropriate,” and that the primary responsibility for the failure lies with the then bishop of Cloyne, Bishop John Magee.

It says he “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.

Publishing the report, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter appealed to victims of abuse to “come forward” and said that they would be dealt with by the Gardaí with “compassion and dignity.”

He said that in spite of the creation of new structures and promise of change, there were still those who continued to act “in bad faith.”

It is not enough to take the words of “organisations on trust” as the report found they “did not live up to their word.”

He went on, “The failure of the Church to report cases to the Gardaí was perhaps the most appalling failure of all as it occurred after so many shocking revelations of past failures.”

He announced the publication of a new Bill, the Criminal Justice Withholding Information on Crimes Against Children and Vulnerable Adults Bill, which will put child protection on a statutory basis and introduce penalties of up to five years imprisonment for breaches.

“There will be no legal grey area which inhibits prosecutions,” said Minister Shatter.

It is difficult to understand the mindset of those who, as recently as 2006, 2007 and 2008, despite all that has been said and learnt in the last two decades, to know that they were repeating the failures of the past, concealing and oblivious of the extent to which their failures placed children at risk, said Minister Shatter, who apologised “for any failings of the state.”

The promised legislation will put the Children First legislation on a statutory basis, said Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald.

“There will be no a la carte approach to Children First,” she said.

The Church’s own child protection body, the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, is currently conducting an audit of the implementation of child protection policies in all of the dioceses.

In response to calls from the public to publish the results of this audit, Ms Fitzgerald said, “the more transparency there is from the Church, the more reassured one can be.”

The serious failures in Cloyne were first investigated by the NBSCCc and its report was published in December 2008.

Cardinal Seán Brady, Primate of all Ireland has welcomed the report.

The fantastic wealth of Irish Catholic religious orders revealed

When the Irish Government negotiated a settlement of the compensation due to the tens of thousands of people abused and traumatised in institutions run by the Catholic Church, the total came to €1.36 billion.

The Government wanted the Church to pay half of this, but during negotiations in 2002, the Church managed to wangle its way into contributing only €120 million (£107m) – a pitifully small fraction of what was needed.

This deal was struck on the hypothesis that there would be 2,000 claimants, something the Church was uniquely qualified to know would not be the case.

In the event there were 14,000.

Only after a great deal of public pressure, the amount the Church will pay is now to be renegotiated, with the Government having carried out a review of the assets of the religious orders that abused, over many years, those in their care.

The review has revealed the staggering wealth of these religious orders. It showed between 1999 and 2009, the orders made €667 million in property deals.

Almost all of these sales were made while the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was investigating the years of suffering endured by children in their care.

The properties included land banks, houses, farmyards, a swimming pool, a warehouse, sports grounds and convents.

A quarter of all these trades involved the 2,088-member Sisters of Mercy.

Its four provinces sold 195 properties, including a €32m deal for 16 acres in Killarney.

The order still retained over €1 billion in land assets after these deals.

The 250-member Christian Brothers made €79m in the decade under review and the smaller Oblates of Mary Immaculate featured prominently because of the €105m it made by selling its Belcamp campus in north Dublin.

The top 13 trades by the orders brought in a combined €409m, while the remaining 313 units were sold for €81m.

The €667m total contributed to the revenue of 17 of the 18 orders which, in 2009, agreed to renegotiate the controversial 2002 indemnity deal.

The subsequent sales returns consisted of over 395 properties in the Republic, the North, Britain and America.

The details were released to an Irish newspaper with the orders’ agreement.

Some properties were transferred to community, public and diocesan bodies for nominal fees. Others were bought at peak prices by speculators and developers.

The asset review took place after a public backlash following the Ryan Report two years ago.

The report’s contents forced the Government and the orders to revisit the deal which capped the liability of the orders at €128m.

On the basis of the review, the orders raised their offer to €476m.

This was to go towards compensating victims, building the new National Children’s Hospital and erecting a memorial.

However, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn says he is disappointed by the offer from the various orders – they are still several hundred million short of what is needed.

He is now seeking further property transfers and says he will use bailiffs to seize more property if necessary to make up the shortfall.

But, as Dearbhail McDonald, the legal editor of the Irish Independent, pointed out, much of the money is tied up in charitable trusts for a specific purpose.

He maintains it will be difficult — even impossible — for the Government to access it.

“The chances of the Government sending in the bailiffs to the religious orders is about as likely as the sisters and brothers footing their half of an estimated €1.36bn abuse bill: negligible.”

Ruairi Quinn wants the orders’ overall contribution to be raised to €680m.

He says that if the Church does not pay its fair share of the settlement it will mean further cuts in public spending in a country already suffering mightily in the recession.

The Government is to re-open discussions with the clergy shortly.

“I’m going to enter into these negotiations with an open mind,” said Minister Quinn, although he told reporters that he is “not confident” that the Church will stump up its share.

“This is about recouping for the distressed Irish taxpayer a vast amount of money, the alternative which is that we have to reduce further expenditure and introduce saving in areas that we would otherwise not want to do.”

Despite the sales, the various religious orders retained a bank of property assets worth €3.07bn and financial assets of €704m.

Catholic Church Denies Legal Responsibility For Abuse

A hearing into whether the church has the same legal obligations towards priests as employers towards employees, could have massive ramifications.

The Roman Catholic Church is taking the unprecedented step of arguing in court that is is not responsible for sexual abuse committed by its priests, arguing that the relationship between a Catholic priest and the bishop of the local diocese is not an employment relationship and therefore the diocese does not have vicarious liability.

There have been thousands of accusations around the world of abuse by priests but the majority of legal cases have been settled out of court or withdrawn.

This is thought to be the first time that the Church has gone to court to defend itself against accusations specificially relating to liability.

The three day hearing, started last Tuesday, is part of a wider civil action being brought by a woman known only as Miss JGE.

She claims to have been sexually abused while living in a children’s home run an order of nuns, the English Province of Our Lady of Charity.

She alleges that she was sexually abused by a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth, Father Baldwin, who died in 2006.

The claim in that case, due to start in December, will be that the nuns were negligent and in breach of duty, and that the diocese was vicariously liable for the abuse because Father Baldwin was a Catholic priest engaged within the work of the Portsmouth diocese.

However the hearing this week will not deal with the allegations of abuse at all, but will centre on the ‘corporate responsibility’ of the church in abuse cases.

If the claim is upheld, the church will be found legally responsible for the sexual abuse committed by their priests.

The solicitor representing Miss JGE, Tracey Emmott, said: “The most astonishing point to me to emerge from this tragic and sordid case is that the Catholic church is claiming that it isn’t legally responsible for the behaviour of its own priest.

“We need to show that while Father Baldwin wasn’t strictly an employee of the church, he was acting on the bishop’s behalf and that the bishop clearly had a degree of control over his activities.”

Ms Emmott said that the consequences of the Catholic Church winning the point was that they would be able to avoid compensating all victims of sexual abuse by priests.

The Catholic Church and the Portsmouth Diocese said they would not comment until the end of the hearing.