A DEFIANT Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, read out a short statement to the congregation before celebrating midnight Mass at Cobh Cathedral on Christmas Day.
Bishop Magee has faced an avalanche of calls for his resignation over his mishandling of child abuse allegations that came to light in the Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children report.
Before Mass began, he stood at the pulpit before hundreds of families and reiterated his apologies to all victims of clerical sexual abuse.
Referring to the controversial report, he again said that he accepted its findings and that he took “full responsibility for the criticism of our management of some issues contained in this report”.
“We made errors, not intentionally, and I want to assure you that such errors will not be made again in this diocese... In the future we will have a clerical environment which is as safe as it possibly can be for the children of this diocese. We have been working to create such an environment, but clearly this report highlighted the need for changes, which have been addressed or will be addressed in the immediate future,” he said.
The bishop also said he would update his congregation on all work undertaken in relation to child protection in the diocese.
No further mention was made of the scandal during his midnight Mass homily. The bishop also celebrated 10am mass on Christmas Day, but did not mention the issue in his homily or read out a statement.
Outside the cathedral, a lone priest, who had travelled from Dublin to Cobh for the occasion, stood protesting at the Church’s mishandling of sex abuse allegations.
Fr Michael Mernagh, who works in Dublin’s south inner city, plans to walk from Cobh Cathedral to Dublin’s Pro Cathedral next week in protest at the hierarchy’s failure to stand with victims of abuse. He has called on other priests and lay people to join him.
In the 48 hours leading up to Christmas Eve, Bishop Magee was asked to reflect on his position by Minister for Children Barry Andrews, Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin and high-profile victims of clerical abuse such as Marie Collins.
Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said he should do “what is best for child protection”. Similarly, the Government’s special rapporteur on child protection, Geoffrey Shannon described the bishop’s position as “untenable”. Bishop Magee has refused to speak on the issue, but has stated he won’t be resigning.
The publication of the National Board for Safeguarding Children report showed that Bishop Magee and his child protection team had put children at risk by failing to report alleged abuse to gardaí and failing to remove accused priests from their duties.
“The diocese is vulnerable to being seen to be complicit in not taking action to remove these people from the priesthood,” wrote the report’s author, Ian Elliott.
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