Bishop John McGee is the only man ever to have served as private secretary to three Popes – Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul I, and Pope John Paul II. He was thus at the heart of the Vatican establishment for almost two decades before being made Bishop of Cloyne in 1987. Now a judicial report into child sexual abuse in his diocese has found that the Vatican was ‘entirely unhelpful’ in applying child safety in the Diocese and that Bishop McGee 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 safety guidelines) was adopted by the Irish hierarchy despite Vatican opposition.

Vatican ‘entirely unhelpful’ in applying child safety

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, a report has found.

The Commission of Investigation Report into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne states that a decision by the Vatican to brand a framework document on child sexual abuse, agreed by the Irish Bishops Conference in 1996, as “not an official document” effectively gave individual Irish bishops “the freedom to ignore” the guidelines.

The Vatican response “can only be described as unsupportive especially in relation to the civil authorities,” the commission said in its 341 page report.

The effect of this was “to strengthen the position of those who dissented from the official stated Irish Church policy”, according to the report, which examines allegations made against 19 priests between 1996 and 2009.

The commission says the response of the diocese was “inadequate and inappropriate” and that the primary responsibility for the failure to implement the agreed child sexual abuse procedures lies with then Bishop of Cloyne John Magee, who resigned in March 2010.

“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, 12 years after the framework document was adopted,” the report says.

“It became clear during the course of this investigation that Bishop Magee had, to a certain extent, detached himself from the day to day management of child sexual abuse cases. Bishop Magee was the head of the diocese and cannot avoid his responsibility by blaming subordinates who he wholly failed to supervise.”

It says that Bishop Magee wrongly told the government and the HSE that the Cloyne Diocese was reporting all allegations of clerical child sexual abuse to the authorities. It also said he deliberately misled people by creating two different accounts of a meeting with a priest accused of abuse.

The inquiry, led by Judge Yvonne Murphy, said the fact that some child sexual abuse allegations were not reported to gardai was the diocese’s “greatest failure”.

A history of clerical abuse inquiries

The report into the investigation into allegations of clerical child sex abuse in Cloyne is the fourth inquiry into the affairs of Catholic Church in Ireland to have been published within the past six years.

Murphy Report 


Among the findings:  Four successive archbishops of the Dublin Catholic Archdiocese handled allegations of child sexual abuse badly and with “denial, arrogance and cover-up” and did not report their knowledge of abuse to gardaí over a period of three decades.

The structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated the cover-up of abuse.

Ryan Report 


Among the findings:  Thousands of children suffered physical and sexual abuse over several decades in 216 residential institutions run by religious orders implicating over 800 priests, brothers, nuns and lay people.

The report criticised the Department of Education for failing to carry out its “statutory duty of inspection” out of deference towards the religious congregations.

Ferns Report


Among the findings:  The report strongly criticised the handling of the Catholic Church of child sexual abuse over four decades having heard allegations by over 100 individuals against 21 priests among them Seán Fortune who was involved in a number of rapes and sexual assaults around the country over a period of two decades.

The report found former bishop of Ferns Brendan Comiskey “failed to recognise the paramount need to protect children, as a matter of urgency, from potential abusers” and accused him of providing erroneous information to one garda inquiry and failing to co-operate fully with another.

Needless to say, no one in authority has, or is likely to go to prison.  Individual priests have been prosecuted successfully often despite the huge time lapse between the offences occurring and the prosecutions being brought.  Of course many continued to abuse new victims whilst the authorities assiduously covered over their tracks. As a general rule, state action only followed extensive media exposure and the campaigning of victim advocacy groups.

If you have the stomach for it, a timeline of the clerical child abuse scandal is published here. Commercial insurance policies against being sued for Child abuse were taken out by most dioceses in 1986/7, so it is not as if the Bishops weren’t aware they had a problem.  As early as 1985, Fr Tom Doyle, a US canon law expert, warns of dire consequences if scandal is not dealt with openly and effectively. He is ignored and removed from his position in the Vatican embassy in Washington…

In 1993 Pope John Paul II wrote to US bishops in response to the growing scandalo: “I share your sadness and disappointment” and went on to say the child sex abuse problem concerns only a small group of priests. His spokesman, Joaquín Navarro-Valls, sumed up the Vatican attitude: “One would have to ask if the real culprit is not a society that is irresponsibly permissive, hyperinflated with sexuality and capable of creating circumstances that induce even people who have received a sound moral formation to commit grave immoral acts.”

So basically, guys and galls, it’s your fault.  Your permissive attitudes resulted in priests abusing children and the Vatican having to cover it all up. Shame on you.

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