Second bishop resigns amid Irish abuse scandal fallout

A second bishop was dramatically removed from the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland over child sex abuse scandals tonight, with another three senior clerics expected to face the same fall from grace.

Scandal-hit former bishop of Cloyne John Magee, a one-time Vatican aide and the only cleric to serve as personal secretary to three popes, quit the day-to-day running of parishes across rural Cork in March last year.

The 73-year-old, from Newry, Co Down, faced scathing criticism after the church's own watchdog found he took minimal action on accusations against two of his priests and branded his child protection inadequate and dangerous.

But it took more than a year for his fate to be finally sealed after Pope Benedict announced his shock resignation.

He follows bishop of Limerick Donal Murray out of the hierarchy with under-fire Bishop of Kildare James Moriarty, and auxiliary bishops of Dublin Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field expected to have their resignations formally accepted.

Cardinal Sean Brady, himself criticised over his role in investigations into dead paedophile priest Brendan Smyth, thanked John Magee for his clerical work but insisted the victims of child abuse were most important.

"I wish to acknowledge the long and varied ministry of Bishop John Magee in the Church," the All-Ireland Primate said.

"I thank him for his contribution to the work of the Irish Bishops' Conference over the past 20 years, particularly in the area of liturgy. I assure him of my prayers at this time and wish him good health in his retirement."

The Cardinal added: "However, foremost in my thoughts in these days are those who have suffered abuse by clergy and those who feel angry and let down by the often inadequate response of leaders in the Church."

Bishop Magee, who served as private secretary to three different popes, apologised when the watchdog's report was first published on the internet the week before Christmas 2008 but initially refused to resign.

His daily duties were taken over by Dermot Clifford, Archbishop of neighbouring Cashel and Emly, last year.

In a statement the resigned bishop said he wanted to sincerely apologise to victims of abuse in Cloyne.

"To those whom I have failed in any way, or through any omission of mine have made suffer, I beg forgiveness and pardon," he said.

He said he takes full responsibility for child protection failures and pledged to continue working with Judge Yvonne Murphy's inquiry into the handling of abuse allegations in the diocese.

"I also sincerely hope that the work and the findings of the Commission of Investigation will be of some help towards healing for those who have been abused," he said.

"I welcome the fact that my offer of resignation has been accepted, and I thank the priests, religious and faithful of the diocese for their support during my time as Bishop of Cloyne, and assure them of a place in my prayers always."

His departure differed from that of Donal Murray who offered to quit last December after being criticised in the Murphy inquiry into the Dublin Archdiocese over failures to report child abuse. His resignation was accepted within 10 days.

John Magee, 73, was at the centre of an explosive report on child protection in the Diocese of Cloyne, compiled by the Catholic Church's national board for safeguarding children, and published before Christmas 2008.

It detailed how the Bishop failed to inform authorities about abuse allegations.

The accusations centred on two priests in Co Cork. The first revelation, made by a serving priest in December 2004, claimed he had been abused by another priest when he was a young boy.

In a separate accusation, a second unnamed priest was accused of molesting two teenage girls over a five-year period, abusing a 14-year-old boy and of having a year-long sexual relationship with the boy's mother.

Victims' groups were further angered when it was published on the internet on a Friday evening the week before Christmas, accusing authorities of attempting to bury the report and a lack of transparency.

A second audit by health chiefs published in January 2009 found the Bishop failed to tell authorities one of his priests was under investigation for abuse. At the same time he claimed he was fully compliant with child protection guidelines.

The first Cloyne report revealed gardai were not alerted to the child abuse claims for six months. It said the diocese did not name the alleged perpetrator to gardai, but named the alleged victim, also a priest.

In the second case, it took the diocese eight years to call in gardai after allegations were made against a priest in early 1995.

In all, Bishop Magee issued three statements refusing to resign before bowing to pressure two months after the report was published.

Archbishop Clifford said: "I would like to thank Bishop John Magee for the cooperation he has given me since my appointment as apostolic administrator to the Diocese of Cloyne.

"I wish him all God's blessings in his retirement. I ask for the continued prayers and support of the lay faithful, priests and religious of the Diocese of Cloyne for all those who have suffered abuse."