THE INTERVIEW and statement by Bishop John Magee last week has been described as “an object lesson in what not to do” by Fr Brendan Hoban, founder member of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).
He was referring to an RTÉ interview given by the former Bishop of Cloyne outside his home in Mitchelstown, Co Cork, on August 22nd last and a statement issued by him that day also.
Both represented Bishop Magee’s first comments in five weeks since he responded to publication of the Cloyne report on July 13th last.
He “unreservedly” apologised to victims of clerical child sex abuse in Cloyne and said he would be willing to meet them and their families privately.
Fr Hoban wrote on the ACP website: “You don’t agree to talk to someone giving the impression that you are being door-stepped. You don’t read out a statement or, if you feel you have to, you make sure that someone who knows something about words has a look at it beforehand.”
He continued: “You don’t justify or explain, when the evidence is conclusive and the jury has already gone home. You turn up. You tell the truth. You hold up your hands. It’s not brain surgery. It’s just being media savvy.”
Fr Hoban said: “The difficult truth at present is that bishops are not believed or trusted. Even if they said the Our Father there would be something wrong with it.
“Old men in black suits conjure up frightening, not reassuring images. Being Catholic is the last great stigma. To quote a man (former taoiseach Brian Cowen) who found himself in a similarly impossible place, ‘We are where we are’.”
He noted that “every bishop is lord in his own diocese and the culture of deference that assures them they are competent in every imaginable subject makes it almost impossible for them to actually accept that in certain instances they are completely out of their depths. Part of the difficulty is that they seem not to understand how much the ground has moved under their feet.”
He recalled how the late Cardinal Cahal Daly had made the point “that part of the difficulty of dealing with the IRA was that it was impossible to communicate with them. The were in a time warp; they had tunnel vision; they didn’t seem to realise that time has moved on and that Ireland has changed.” Cardinal Daly’s words “are a metaphor for where we are as a church now. And the interview given by the hapless Bishop Magee simply underlined the problems we have.”
He concluded: “There are rules that have emerged from the experience of dealing with difficult issues . . . There are things you do and things you don’t do. And the Magee interview was an object lesson in what not to do.”