Looking for the bishop

JMageeJust returned from a vacation in Ireland during which I visited Cobh, the port city in County Cork from which so many of the Irish emigrated. I decided to walk uphill to St. Colman's Cathedral, which, with its 300-foot carillon, towers over the harbor town. I hadn't realized until I arrived that this was the cathedral for the Diocese of Cloyne, where, according to an Irish government report issued in mid-July, Bishop John Magee had long ignored an agreement the Irish bishops had reached in 1996 to report allegations of clergy sex abuse to the authorities.Bishop Magee, who was a personal secretary to three popes, resigned last year and has departed for points unknown - possibly the United States, according to some news reports in Ireland. He issued a statement in response to the report, but hasn't been available to respond to questions - or the tide of outrage engulfing the church in Ireland. Now, three Irish bishops have called for Magee to return to answer his parishioners' questions. No doubt there are many.Magee has claimed that he simply didn't pay any attention to clergy sexual abuse allegations in his diocese until 2008 (while new allegations mounted). According to the Irish government report, he left that task to a monsignor who disagreed with the guidelines the Irish bishops reached in 1996.So, too, did the Vatican, the report said. It reported that the Congregation for the Clergy took serious issue with the bishops' agreement for mandatory reporting of sex abuse allegations to the Gardai. Was Bishop Magee aware of that? Given his ties to Rome, it is hard to imagine otherwise.Meanwhile, Bishop Magee's name remains etched in stone in the cathedral, part of a family tree that memorializes each bishop and lists his years of service, dating back to St. Colman, a sixth-century monk and poet.

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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