- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 25, 2010

DUBLIN | Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop Wednesday for his failure to report child-molesting priests to police — and faced a renewed reminder of the German abuse case most closely linked to his own time in charge of Munich.

Bishop John Magee — who served as secretary to Benedict’s three papal predecessors before returning to Ireland in 1987 — apologized to victims of any pedophile priests who were kept in parish posts during his 23 years overseeing the southwest Irish diocese of Cloyne.

“To those whom I have failed in any way, or through any omission of mine have made suffer, I beg forgiveness and pardon,” the 73-year-old Bishop Magee said in his resignation statement. Irish government investigators are continuing to explore Cloyne abuse cover-ups and expect to report findings later this year.

The Vatican is on the defensive over ever-unfolding accusations that church leaders have protected child abusers for decades in many countries.

Benedict last week issued an unprecedented letter to Ireland addressing the 16 years of church cover-up scandals here. But he has yet to say anything about his handling of the Rev. Peter Hullermann, the case known to have developed on the pope’s watch when, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he oversaw the Munich Archdiocese from 1977 to 1982.

Munich Archdiocese spokesman Bernhard Kellner said Wednesday a new person has come forward claiming to have been abused in 1998 by Father Hullermann. Mr. Kellner gave no other details.

Father Hullermann had been accused of abusing boys in Essen, western Germany, in the 1970s when Cardinal Ratzinger approved his 1980 transfer to Munich to receive psychological treatment for pedophilia. Until recent years, the church in many countries referred child abusers in the priesthood to private clinics — and not the police — when accused of crimes.

Bishop Magee had been expected to resign ever since an Irish church-commissioned investigation into the mishandling of child-abuse reports in Cloyne ruled two years ago that Bishop Magee and his senior diocesan aides failed to tell police quickly about two 1990s cases.

Bishop Magee, who was born in the Northern Ireland border town of Newry, served as a private secretary to three successive popes — Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II — from 1969 to 1982. He then served as John Paul II’s master of ceremonies until 1987.

Cardinal Sean Brady, leader of Ireland’s 4 million Catholics, offered prayers and praise for Bishop Magee.

“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,” Cardinal Brady said.

Cardinal Brady, a Vatican-trained canon lawyer, faces his own cover-up accusations. He has admitted collecting evidence in 1975 from two altar-boy victims of a notorious pedophile priest — but had both boys sign confidentiality agreements and never passed his information to police. That priest, Brendan Smyth, wasn’t imprisoned until 1994 after molesting scores of children in Ireland and the United States. Cardinal Brady confessed his sense of shame in his St. Patrick’s Day sermon.

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