Cardinal defends his role in 1975 abuse inquiryThursday, May 3rd, 2012
Cardinal Seán Brady has said he will not resign, despite mounting criticism of his role in a 1975 canonical inquiry into the notorious paedophile Fr Brendan Smyth.
In a statement issued in Armagh on Wednesday, the Cardinal robustly defended his involvement in the inquiry and accused the BBC documentary The World: The Shame of the Catholic Church of making a number of claims which overstated and misrepresented his role. He also highlighted that no State or Church guidelines existed at the time of the inquiry in Ireland to assist those responding to an allegation of abuse against a minor.
The new evidence unearthed by the BBC documentary relates to the testimony of 14-year-old Co Louth victim of the notorious serial abuser, Fr Brendan Smyth. Brendan Boland told a three-priest inquiry team, which included the then Fr Seán Brady, of his two years of abuse at the hands of the Co Cavan-based Smyth.
This became public knowledge in 2010 and led to calls for the Cardinal to stand down over the oath of secrecy that Boland was forced to sign, and the fact that the civil authorities were not informed of the abuse.
Tuesday's BBC programme revealed that during his deposition, Brendan Boland also furnished the inquiry with the names and addresses of other victims of Smyth who were known to him. According to journalist Daragh McIntyre’s report, the parents of these victims were never notified by the Church of the abuse allegations.
One of the victims revealed in the documentary that he was sexually abused for a further year by Smyth after the inquiry was completed, while his sister was abused for another seven years up until 1982, and that four of his cousins were abused up to 1988.
According to Cardinal Brady, when the inquiry was completed, he passed all the information he had obtained to his Bishop, Dr Francis Mc Kiernan.
Fr Smyth was finally arrested in 1994 and was convicted in 1997 of sexually assaulting 20 victims over 35 years.
In his statement, Cardinal Brady rejected the programme’s claim that he was an investigator in the inquiry.
“I did not formulate the questions asked in the Inquiry process. I did not put these questions to Mr Boland. I simply recorded the answers that he gave,” he said. He hit back at the programme’s coverage of his role claiming it was incorrect to suggest that he had the, “power to stop Brendan Smyth in 1975.”
The Cardinal said even his bishop, Dr McKiernan, had limited authority over Smyth, and that those culpable for the inadequate response were Smyth’s Abbot and religious superiors in the Norbertine Order.
Describing himself as, “shocked, appalled and outraged,” when he, “first discovered in the mid-1990s that Brendan Smyth had gone on to abuse others,” he explained that he believed that Bishop McKiernan had brought the evidence to the Abbot of Kilnacrott and that the Abbot would then have dealt decisively with Brendan Smyth and prevented him from abusing others.
Survivor of abuse, Marie Collins told ciNews that she was, as she did in 2010, calling on Cardinal Brady to resign.
“What I saw in that documentary was just appalling. He has to go and if he doesn't, how can a man like that lead the Church in Ireland?” she asked.
Meanwhile, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has defended Cardinal Brady’s handling of the case. In an interview with RTÉ Radio on Wednesday, the CDF official said the Cardinal has no case to answer in relation to his handling of the inquiry.
“He was doing his duty to investigate something that had come to the knowledge of the church and I think he fulfilled his duty well,” he commented and said that the 36-year-old priest acted as a notary and not an investigator.
Responding to Mgr Scicluna’s comments, Marie Collins told ciNews, “I was devastated by Mgr Scicluna's comments in which he backed Cardinal Brady. I was so impressed with him [Scicluna] at the symposium on abuse in Rome in February and then to hear him defend the indefensible.”
She added, “They are circling the wagons and the Vatican has decided that Brady cannot go because they are afraid of the domino effect.” Furthermore, she questioned how Cardinal Brady, as a 36-year-old schoolteacher, could not have informed the parents of children he knew were being abused.
“The parents would have put a stop to the abuse immediately. His silence was a betrayal of the parents as well as the abused children. Cardinal Brady abdicated his moral responsibility as a human being in favour of deference to the church's code of confidentiality.”
She said she was devastated and felt the Church in Ireland had no credibility left.
Cardinal Brady in his statement did accept that he was part of, “an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society and the Church,” which he said is now, “a thing of the past.”
In the wake of the publication of the Murphy Report in 2009, Cardinal Brady told RTÉ that he would resign if he found that a child had been abused as a result of any managerial failure on his part. However, he now appears to be rowing back on that statement, claiming he gave that answer in response to a question about someone in a position of management such as a bishop, which he was not in 1975.
Two years ago, the Cardinal refused to resign, offering to remain on to lead the Church in Ireland forward on its path of renewal as a, "wounded healer," suggesting he was better placed to help it deal with the tragedy of child sexual abuse on account of his brokenness.
By Sarah Mac Donald