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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Pope Accepts Irish Bishop’s Resignation in Abuse Scandal; Victims respond
Statement by Barbara Dorris, Outreach Director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314-503-0003)
We should neither exaggerate nor minimize the importance of complicit Catholic bishops stepping down.
We hope that Magee's resignation will provide some relief and consolation for the thousands of deeply wounded abuse victims and hundreds of thousands of betrayed parishioners in Ireland. By itself, however, this resignation doesn't signify any fundamental change in the corrupt church hierarchy or hurtful church practices regarding predator priests, nuns, seminarians, bishops, brothers or other employees.
It's preventive, not punitive, when a corrupt bishop resigns. It helps deter future recklessness, deceit and callousness. It helps, in a small way, to begin to change the church's centuries-old culture of silence and complicity surrounding child sex crimes and cover ups.
Again, we hope this move will help those in pain realize that there is hope and that their suffering is validated. At the same time, we hope this move will not in any way diminish the pressure for more substantive, long-term reforms that are needed to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded in the church.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around for 22 years and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell)
Pope Accepts Irish Bishop’s Resignation in Abuse Scandal
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop accused of mishandling allegations of sexual abuse by priests, adding to the fallout of a scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in Ireland and throughout Europe.
The bishop, John Magee, who served as private secretary to three popes, stepped down earlier this month as head of the diocese of Cloyne, in southern Ireland, following allegations that he had not disciplined priests known to have abused children.
“As I depart, I want to offer once again my sincere apologies to any person who has been abused by any priest of the Diocese of Cloyne during my time as bishop or at any time,” Bishop Magee said in a statement on Wednesday. “To those whom I have failed in any way, or through any omission of mine have made suffer, I beg forgiveness and pardon.”
Bishop Magee’s was the first resignation since the pope last weekend released a long-awaited letter to Irish Catholics apologizing to victims of sexual abuse and expressing “shame and remorse.”
Yet Benedict’s letter did not call for any church leaders to be disciplined, feeding a growing sense of anger in Ireland, where many Catholics are calling on the country’s chief bishop, Sean Brady, to resign over his role as a young priest in the 1970s urging two children to sign secrecy agreements not to report abuse.
Benedict’s letter came after two scathing Irish government reports released last year revealed decades of systematic sex abuse of hundreds of thousands of Irish children and a widespread cover-up of the problem. The revelations have shaken the Irish church to its core; some fear it has lost a generation to the crisis.
Bishop Magee’s resignation was not unexpected, coming amid a steady drumbeat among Irish Catholics for more church leaders to step down.
Beyond Bishop Magee, four other Irish bishops named in the government reports have offered to resign, but Benedict has accepted only one of their requests.
Colm O’Gorman, founder of One In Four, a campaign group against clerical abuse, said that Bishop Magee’s resignation was “a reminder that just because the church has policies that address child protection in Ireland does not mean that it is following its own guidelines.”
Mr. O’Gorman, a survivor of sex abuse who is also an executive director of Amnesty International in Ireland, added that the bishop had resigned only after much pressure from victims groups. Mr. O’Gorman has called on the Irish government to extend its investigation to all 26 Irish dioceses.
As new revelations of sex abuse by priests continued to emerge in Benedict’s native Germany, as well as Austria and the Netherlands, Mr. O’Gorman said that the Irish crisis “has lessons for other countries confronting clerical abuse.”
In December 2008, an investigation by a church panel into abuse allegations in Cloyne found that Bishop Magee had failed to respond to charges of abuse by two priests and said that policies to protect children were severely lacking. The report set off a storm of calls for Bishop Magee’s resignation.
Bishop Magee, 73, relinquished his administrative duties last March, but had retained his title.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Cloyne diocese, Father Jim Killeen, said that Bishop Magee had “taken personal responsibility” for the findings of the investigative panel, the National Body for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.
Bishop Magee has since been assisting a separate, government-sponsored investigation into Cloyne being conducted by Justice Yvonne Murphy, which last November published a damning account of priestly abuse and widespread cover-up in the Archdiocese of Dublin.
Bishop Magee will likely continue to perform pastoral work, the Cloyne diocese spokesman said.
At the Vatican, Bishop Magee was best known as the personal secretary who was among the first to find the body of Pope John Paul I, who died after a month in office in 1978. John Paul II named him bishop of Cloyne in 1987.
Rachel Donadio reported from Vatican City and Eamon Quinn from Dublin. Jack Healy contributed reporting from New York.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests