Updated Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 11:02 AM
The pope on Saturday named a new bishop for the troubled Irish diocese of Cloyne, where for years its previous bishop ignored the Irish church's own rules requiring suspected priestly sex abuse to be reported to police. The new bishop promptly vowed to do everything in his power to help abuse victims heal.
Cloyne has been without a resident bishop since John Magee, private secretary to three popes, resigned in disgrace as bishop in 2010 after a church-appointed commission found that he and his deputies fielded complaints from parishioners about two pedophile priests starting in 1995, but told police nothing until 2003, and little thereafter.
The findings were particularly galling since the Irish church, under mounting pressure and lawsuits stemming from revelations of wide-scale priest sex abuse and cover-up, had adopted a policy in 1996 requiring bishops to report abuse to police. The Cloyne report, however, found that Magee took no hands-on interest in enacting the policy until 2008.
Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday named the Rev. Canon William Crean, a parish priest in Cahersiveen, to replace the apostolic administrator who has been running the diocese in Magee's absence. Crean, 60, has been a director of religious education in several Irish schools and received his theology degree from the Jesuit-run Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
In his initial remarks, Crean promised Saturday to work with his staff to "bring healing and new hope to the lives of all victims of abuse and their families."
"As I accept this appointment, you will appreciate that I feel apprehensive because I am deeply conscious of the trauma of these years past - so much suffering endured by young people at the hands of a few, sufferings compounded by the failure of those who didn't believe them and those who didn't hear their cry for help," he said from St. Colman's Cathedral.
Following the church's fact-finding commission into the abuses in Cloyne, the Irish government last year issued its own report into the southwest rural County Cork diocese and found that the Vatican had encouraged the concealing of the crimes by warning bishops that their 1996 policy violated church law.
Citing the Cloyne report, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny delivered a now-infamous tirade against the Holy See in July 2011, accusing it of sabotaging the 1996 policy and denouncing the "dysfunction, disconnection, elitism" that he said dominated Vatican culture today. The Vatican vigorously denied Kenny's accusations, but a diplomatic chill ensued. Ireland closed its embassy to the Holy See soon thereafter.
The Cloyne report was the fourth state fact-finding probe into how church leaders for decades protected pedophiles and their own reputations at the expense of Ireland's children. The finding have decimated the church's reputation and standing in the once-devoutly Catholic nation.
Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield