Cloyne Report Released

Today's Irish Catholic reports on the newly-released Cloyne report. (HT: NCR.)The report concludes that "the Churchs own guidelines were not fully or consistently implemented in the diocese as recently as 2008." The focus of the news item is Bishop John Magee, who was found in December of 2008 "by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) to be operating child safeguarding policies that were 'inadequate and in some respects dangerous'. He also was known at the time to have embraced and kissed a candidate for priesthood, telling the young man that he loved him.Wasn't enough, though--the Irish hierarchy debated whether this meant that Magee should resign. He finally did resign in 2010.Continuing in this "plus ca change" mode is the report's conclusion:

In May this year the head of the NBSCCC, Ian Elliott, admitted that he had considered resigning over what he described as a lack of co-operation from senior Church leaders in Ireland to his auditing of dioceses handling of allegations. Bishops had withdrawn from the auditing process citing data protection concerns. However, after assurances were received all dioceses are now co-operating according to the NBSCCC and the body expects to complete the audits in the coming year.

Is there a Philadelphia in Ireland? We'll see.Other questions arise for me.1. First, the bishop's failure to address sex abuse cases (the report reads: 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,) is a different KIND of failure than his inappropriate sexual/romantic overtures to a young man who I infer to be of legal age. Will the two be differentiated in the media hubbub?2. I find the second--the sexual/romantic stuff--to be an egregious abuse of power over an aspirant to the priesthood. But it is also a sad and tragic reflection of Magee's inner life. Would you describe such a man (to the extent that we can infer the man from his actions) as having a vocation to celibate life, or is he a man with unrequited sexual/romantic longings who is hiding in the clerical closet? A priest I know reaches out sexually (to adult women,) but will never face within himself the deeper question of vocation, responsibility, and the relationship of sexual acts and overtures to a deep unmet need for intimacy. I can't help but see Magee in the same light. Part of the cost of mandatory celibacy for the Church is the acting out of men who cannot face their normal human desire for intimacy in a mature way. And if Magee is gay, (he may be straight or bisexual in orientation, and just be looking for sex where he thinks he can get it,) this "intimacy closet" is made darker still by the Church's harsh anti-gay teaching.3. Given that Magee was known to have been at least sloppy in handling matters related to sexual abuse until 2008, long after the US Church began its implosion, why was there debate as to whether he should resign? What would it have taken for the other Irish bishops to say "this guy is dangerous to the Church, and should leave"? Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was one of the strong voices in favor of Magee's resignation, but his voice went unheeded. And how many young men does a bishop get to make passes at before someone--anyone--finds that behavior problematic for a leader of the Church??The full 400 page report is at I just don't have the heart to read it.

Lisa Fullam is professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).

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