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Cardinal Brady: I will not resign over role in inquiry that let abuser off

By on Thursday, 3 May 2012

Cardinal Brady speaks to media outside Armagh cathedral (CNS photo)

Cardinal Brady speaks to media outside Armagh cathedral (CNS photo)

The primate of All Ireland has said he will not resign despite criticism of his role in a 1975 canonical inquiry into a paedophile priest, Norbertine Fr Brendan Smyth.

In a statement issued in Armagh, Northern Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady defended his involvement in the inquiry and accused the BBC documentary The World: The Shame of the Catholic Church of overstating and misrepresenting his role.

He also highlighted that no state or Church guidelines existed in the 1970s in the Irish Republic to assist those responding to an allegation of abuse against a minor.

The BBC documentary reported the testimony of Brendan Boland, a 14-year-old victim of Fr Smyth, arrested in 1994 and convicted in 1997 of sexually assaulting 20 victims over a period of 35 years.

In 1975, Boland told a three-priest inquiry team, which included the then Fr Brady, of his two years of abuse at the hands of Fr Smyth. This became public knowledge in 2010 and led to calls for the cardinal to step 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.

The BBC programme reported that, during his deposition, Boland also furnished the inquiry with the names and addresses of other victims of Fr Smyth.

According to journalist Darragh MacIntyre’s report, the parents of these victims were never notified by the Church of the abuse allegations.

One of the victims said in the documentary that he was sexually abused for a further year by Fr Smyth after the inquiry was completed, while his sister was abused until 1982 and that four of his cousins were abused until 1988.

According to Cardinal Brady, when the inquiry was completed he passed all the information he had obtained to his bishop, Bishop Francis McKiernan.

In his May 2 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.

“The documentation of the interview with Brendan Boland, signed in his presence, clearly identifies me as the ‘notary’ or ‘note taker’. Any suggestion that I was other than a ‘notary’ in the process of recording evidence from Mr Boland is false and misleading,” Cardinal Brady said.

He said he subsequently interviewed one of the alleged victims who lived in his own diocese.

“That I conducted this interview on my own is already on the public record. This provided prompt corroboration of the evidence given by Mr Boland,” he said.

The cardinal also said it was incorrect to suggest that he had the “power to stop Brendan Smyth in 1975″.

He said even Bishop McKiernan had limited authority over Fr Smyth, and that those culpable for the inadequate response were the Norbertine abbot and religious superiors.

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 said he thought that Bishop McKiernan had taken the evidence to the abbot of Kilnacrott and that the abbot would then have prevented Fr Smyth from abusing others.

In an interview with RTE Radio, Mgr Charles Scicluna, the promoter of justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, defended Cardinal Brady’s handling of the case.

“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 said, adding that the then-36-year-old priest acted as a notary, not an investigator.

Cardinal Brady did say that he was part of “an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society and the Church” which he said was now “a thing of the past”.

In the wake of the publication of the Murphy Report in 2009, Cardinal Brady told RTE that he would resign if he found that a child had been abused as a result of any managerial failure on his part.

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”. He suggested he was better placed to help it deal with the tragedy of child sexual abuse on account of his brokenness.

Marie Collins, an abuse survivor from Ireland who recently participated in a Vatican symposium on abuse, said she was repeating her 2010 call for 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 said.

“I was devastated by Mgr Scicluna’s comments in which he backed Cardinal Brady. I was so impressed with him at the symposium on abuse in Rome in February, and then to hear him defend the indefensible. They are circling the wagons, and the Vatican has decided that Brady cannot go because they are afraid of the domino effect.

“The Church in Ireland has no credibility left,” she said.

  • C A Geldart

    Do these armchair critics believe everything the BBC says? They clearly have no idea of the difference between diocesan and religious priests .

  • Benedict Carter

    The entire irish Episcopate should resign, to be replaced by orthodox men and a fresh start. 

    It’s not just the paedophile (and I find the comments by the loathsome Irish government figures obnoxious: let’s be honest and tell the truth – the Irish State hardly existed back in the 60′s and 70′s and was utterly corrupt even then. The Church was doing the State’s work for it) scandal. 

    It’s the whole awful Vatican II “Implementation of Disaster” which has eviscerated the Church in Ireland, as it has done everywhere else. 

    New men need to come in and get back to Catholic basics. Doctrinal orthodoxy before all else. 

  • nytor

    Cardinal Brady, the time has come when your staying harms the Church. As you are a servant of the Church and should have her best interests at heart, shouldn’t you go of your own volition, before Rome is forced to “resign” you itself?

  • Benedict Carter

    They don’t have a clue, nor do they care.

  • diarmuidlee

    The clerical abuse business is an appalling scandal and has done
    enormous damage in Ireland and elsewhere.

    Arguably it has hindered the spread of the Christ’s Gospel.  

    The Catholic Church is Christ’s Church built on the rock of Peter.

    It does not belong to the clerics who as body, in this child abuse
    scandal, from the Vatican down have done
    immense damage to Christ’s Church. And at the heart of it all is clerical

    Many of these clerics do not do humility sadly.

    If they did, they would step aside in shame and cut out all this
    ‘wounded healer’ nonsense. 

    Pope Benedict has referred to priests as God’s inner circle. Is
    this not part of the problem –an male elite set aside from the rest of us governed
    by a different set of canon rules?

    A Brahmin caste?

    Surely God has no favorites according to Paul. And we are all
    priests through baptism according to Peter.

    Many of us would like to see the end of this form of clericalism but dread the
    liberal model that could take its place.

    Perhaps a more prominent role for the Mothers of
    the Church and lots of humility all round

  • Gavin Wheeler

    “The cardinal also said it was incorrect to suggest that he had the “power to stop Brendan Smyth in 1975″.”

    Because obviously going to the police and giving evidence was physically impossible.

  • James Newry

    He also highlighted that no state or Church guidelines existed in the 1970s in the Irish Republic to assist those responding to an allegation of abuse against a minor.   I AM AN ADULT BUT I NEED GUIDELINES TO FOLLOW,,, NOT MY FAULT.
    According to journalist Darragh MacIntyre’s report, the parents of these victims were never notified by the Church of the abuse allegations. NOT MY JOB, SOMEBODY ELSE’S FAULT NOT MINE.,
    The documentation of the interview with Brendan Boland, signed in his presence, clearly identifies me as the ‘notary’ or ‘note taker’ I AM A CANON LAWYER BUT IT’S NOT MY JOB, I ONLY TOOK NOTES,,, NOT MY FAULT,
    According to Cardinal Brady, when the inquiry was completed he passed all the information he had obtained to his bishop, Bishop Francis McKiernan. MC KIERNANS FAULT,,HE’S DEAD. WE’LL BAME HIM,,, NOT MY FAULT.
    he thought that Bishop McKiernan had taken the evidence to the abbot of Kilnacrott and that the abbot would then have prevented Fr Smyth from abusing others. THE ABBOT IS DEAD TOO, WE’LL BLAME HIM AS WELL…..NOT MY FAULT
    In the wake of the publication of the Murphy Report in 2009, Cardinal Brady told RTE that he would resign if he found that a child had been abused as a result of any managerial failure on his part.

    This not my fault syndrome must be bred into them, I asked a local priest ( a good man ) about this a while ago and he also had this syndrome,,,,, “”” but we were told they were ok, they were cured, the psychiatrists told us they were cured”” ….??????

  • David Lindsay

    The end of Catholic Ireland? How do you end something that never really began in the first place?
    Ireland had very high levels of Mass attendance until recent years. But
    it stopped there, at the start. Ireland never had the Catholic
    intellectual life, the fully formed Catholic culture, of the Continent
    or even of England.

    Blaming the Church is a very useful way of distracting from the fact
    that the Irish Republic has always been a failed state. The level of
    emigration never abated, long, long decades after independence. They
    were not fleeing the Church. If anything, the Irish became more
    profoundly Catholic abroad than they had ever been at home, creating
    Catholic universities, reviews and so on in places such as America and
    Australia, things that existed barely at all in Ireland.

    No, they were fleeing the Republic. The Republic that had failed to
    attempt to give practical effect to Catholic Social Teaching in the ways
    promoted by Irish Catholics through the British Labour Party, the
    American Democratic Party, and the ALP and DLP in Australia. Name a
    Western European capital city in which into the 1980s children could be
    seen running around with no shoes because their parents were so poor.
    There is only one.

    The Cloyne Report found breaches of God’s Moral Law and of the Church’s
    Canon Law which were not breaches of the law of the land, placing the
    fault firmly in the Republic, not in the Church. As for Brendan Smyth,
    slowness to extradite was also and by definition a civil, not an
    ecclesiastical, failing. And Brendan Boland was 14. Cardinal Brady’s
    baiters from Dublin to London need to ask themselves how they would have
    reacted in 1975 to sex between a middle-aged man in their own circles
    and a 14-year-old boy, or how they would react to such a thing now.

    Whether or not His Eminence, as he was not then anywhere near becoming,
    dealt well or badly with the problem, he did at least identify it as a
    problem, and he did at least deal with it at all. In those days, sex
    between men and boys was actively promoted in institutions run by
    British local authorities, and openly so in the academic work used to
    train and assess social workers. Patricia Hewitt, later to have overall
    responsibility for every social worker in England, was working with
    Harriet Harman to give legal cover to the Paedophile Information
    Exchange and to Paedophile Action for Liberation.

    Is the BBC going to ban appearances by Peter Tatchell, who would make
    such activities no offence under the criminal law? Whereas they would
    remain a specific offence under Catholic Canon Law if the younger party
    were any age below 18. Have you got that? Eighteen. It is perfectly
    obvious who has the moral high ground. And who has not.

  • teigitur

    Hear hear!!

  • Simeon

    “Name a Western European capital city in which into the 1980s children could be
    seen running around with no shoes because their parents were so poor.
    There is only one.” 
    David Lindsay implies that many Dublin children had no shoes in the 1980s; I do not believe that to be true – it might have been the case into the early 1960s but not 20 years later.  Dublin was quite a prosperous city by the 1980s.

  • Michael O’Neill

    The simple fact is that the Church in Ireland needs a clean slate.  No-one who was involved with, or is tainted in any way, by the clerical sexual abuses scandals should hold ecclesial office, even if they were only involved as a note taker.  New bishops committed to the Magisterium and evangelisation are needed, and the Vatican needs to get over its administrative inertia and laziness and get on with it. 

  • Ian749

    I do find it depressing how orthodox Catholicism (and I consider myself orthodox) seems to attract people who profess a mad certainty about *everything*, including things which they probably don’t know very much about (i.e. the character of the Irish state in the 1960s).

  • Benedict Carter

    Parts of Lisbon.

  • Benedict Carter

    And that’s EXACTLY the problem.

    The Bishops decided to believe the bloody psychologists and ignored Canon Law, which it is their job to uphold. 

    If they had obeyed Canon Law, the number of cases would have been many fewer.

    They were disobedient to the Church’s own rules. For that, any remaining in place should be sacked. 

    Clean the slate and start again.

  • Benedict Carter

    “And at the heart of it all is clerical Pride”.

    Yes, and the wholesale belief in what the secular psychologists were telling them about paedophilia. 

  • Benedict Carter

    Just read the history books Ian, as I am partly Irish and interested. You have a different point of view? Tell us.

  • FredSisley

    As not one priest has had the courage to say I knew and there,s more I will tell,I can only assume the church blackmails everyone.

  • Recusant

    Is that true in this case? I mean, Cardinal Brady’s doctorate is in Canon Law, surely he knew enough about it to do something.

    I want to be charitable to the Cardinal, but he isn’t as impressive as one would hope for a man in his position. He looks like a defeated man. Maybe I would too. I think it would be better if the Vatican let him retire to a monastery somewhere.

  • Recusant

    It’s only the 1960s, not exactly the lost civilisation of the Indus Valley. I think the comment about the Irish Republic is fair, and certainly judging the current bishops by their fruits isn’t very complimentary to them. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin is the one light.

    I think that the faithful would be very happy if the whole Irish Episcopate was disbanded and replaced by Poles, they would really get things back on a proper footing.

  • Peter from Wales

    Over the past year a very close friend of mine almost died from alcohol poisoning as for year upon year he has tried to drown out the memories of the abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of a Catholic priest in England.  I grew up a Catholic but am ashamed to even admit that in most company.  Cardinal Brady’s refusal to accept that he failed similar boys leaves his position untenable. The children were vulnerable and innocent. The outrages committed were against the law.  Does he feel he is above or beyond the law. Sickening. Go.

  • Ian749

    To be honest I know very little about Irish history, and you may be right. What led me to comment was more an irritation at your dogmatic tone, in this and in other posts. Surely you can’t be an expert on *all* of the subjects you pronounce on with the utmost confidence?

  • teigitur

    I would not set too much store by Archbishop Martin.

  • teigitur

    Its true. Not huge numbers but its true. I worked in Dublin for 25 years. First hand knowledge.

  • teigitur

    He needs to go, no doubt. But one look inside Armagh Cathedral would tell you child abuse is not the only thing he is clueless about.

  • Bob Hayes

    Or that there are priests who are not following the teaching of Christ?

  • Apostolic

    Yes, the usual Star Trekked interior – just right for nylon poncho vestments and silly guitar “hymns”. Ireland adopted the worst of pre-and post-Vatican 2. Continuing mindless authoritarianism mixed in with the worst aesthetic taste imaginable. Add to that the silly trendy liturgy and doctrines of the 1960s and after and you can see it was going one way. No wonder perverts thought that they could get away with psychobable therapy.

  • Tridentinus

    As I am of Irish parentage, I am astonished by what has happened T

  • Brian Brady

    Just a moment, Cardinal Brady is subject to the law of the UK and the Republic as much as any citizen. When he became aware of this abuse he had a duty to report it to the police. His failure to do so and so protect a criminal is itself a criminal offence
    Cardinal Brady should now BA arrested and the case referred to the DPP

  • Jonathan West

    In what way does the distinction affect the priest’s moral obligation to protect children?

  • David Lindsay


    Questioning that
    Ireland, with no Catholic intellectual or cultural life whatever
    (Protestants and militant atheists, yes, with the latter no new
    phenomenon), was until lately the beating heart of the Catholic world
    strikes to the core in the same way as questioning that the Irish are
    the most oppressed people ever.

    But Saint Thomas More, Saint John Fisher, John Lingard, Lord Acton, Blessed
    John Henry Newman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Hilaire Belloc, G K
    Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, even Graham Greene: the Irish equivalents of
    these and so many other figures, right down to the present day, simply
    do not exist and have never done so. And that is only England, herself
    hardly the heart and soul of Catholic life.”The scandals” have not done
    for the Church in Ireland. Her foundations there were always weak to

  • David Lindsay

    What were Martin McGuinness and Eamon Gilmore doing in 1975?

    The entire system of government in Northern Ireland is
    designed to ensure that the Provos are always in office, while the Stickies’
    coup within the moribund old Irish Labour Party, which always holds the balance
    of power in the Republic, effectively places them in the same position. The
    number two job in both states is now always held by the organisation that not
    very long ago was trying to bomb them both out of existence.

  • Benedict Carter

    The entire West owes Ireland a huge debt for safeguarding the learning of Greece and Rome and copying it all over the centuries while the rest of us went down into barbarity. 

  • Benedict Carter

    A fair comment! The answer of course is that I am not: but I have read a vast amount, talked to many people and seen many countries (have lived in seven). I played a lot of rugby too: I think that affects my style of writing!

  • Lefty048

    see we can agree.

  • David Lindsay

    You know perfectly well that that is what could politely be called an oversimplification. Or, at any rate, you ought to know it. And even the kernel of truth in it was a very long time ago. Anyone who uses the term “Isle of Saints and Scholars” without a hint of irony is by definition not a serious scholar, and probably doesn’t purport to be.

    It is not that Ireland had no role of that kind. But it was nothing like the one that is often claimed once the Guinness has been flowing for a couple of hours, not least because things elsewhere were nowhere near as bad as that flight of fancy would presuppose. What, even at Rome? Well, there you are, then.

    Most of the Irish were not practising Catholics until the middle of the nineteenth century, and even polygamy was still widely practised in Ireland until only a few generations before that. Yes, Ireland really was very largely still as pagan as that a good thousand years after the Irish Saints. They were real. But they were pretty much lone figures, or at best part of a tiny subculture of serious Catholics. Plus ça change?The truly influential preservations of knowledge were elsewhere, where they were definitive of the mainstream culture. The descent of the rest of Europe into barbarity simply never happened, as the tiniest amount of thought would make obvious. Why do you think that only the Irish have ever heard of the idea that it did? Do you think that, for example, the present Pope was taught that in Bavaria? Hardly!

  • Oconnord

    I have to reply to that! I was a kid in Dublin in the 80′s and the only kids without shoes were the enforced professional beggars you’d see on O’Connell Bridge. We were piss-poor then, and we may soon to be again, but the one thing the Irish are good at is charity. There was utter poverty in the 50′s and 60′s but that level of squalor was only existent within certain minority groups which would use it as a tool.

    Teig, if you know Dublin, then you know my growing up in The Liberties and Dolphin’s Barn means that I’m no stranger to deprived areas. Believe me things weren’t even that bad in the 70′s.  

  • Oconnord

    In other threads you seem very quick to judge people as not “real catholics” but you rarely give respect to their real experience as opposed to your “book learning” and short term experience of their countries. That does lead to you being abrasive, disrespectful and confrontational. 

    Think of it this way, when speaking about Ireland, you may well be a big, rough rugby player…. But I am a lithe, quick hurling player with a big ash hurley in hand.

  • James

    Should not Cardinal Brady consider resigning whether or not he is culpable? The head of the Church in any country must be above suspicion, no more so than in contemporay Ireland where the Church is in grave moral crisis, and where, whatever the truth of the matter, Cardinal Brady will, I am afraid, always remain under suspicion. To resign, and perhaps offer his services as a humble parish priest to whatever parish would give him a home, would help to restore at least some of the Church’s credibility and would also help fortify those many Irish Catholics who are currently struggling to hang on to their faith against all the odds. Yes, it would be a great personal sacrifice for the cardinal to give up his position but did not Our Lord, who was completely innocent of any wrong doing, willingly sacrifice his very life?

  • Parasum
  • Oconnord

    How is it that UN studies show Ireland is ranked amongst the top three countries for quality of life when the UK is ranked 8th?  We might be ready to eat our shoes but at least we are sharing them.

  • JabbaPapa

    I find that to be a ridiculous suggestion.

    He was, in the 1970s, a minor clerk at a hearing in a Church court examining a case of a priest accused of sexual assault. He had no kind of personal responsibility whatsoever concerning the handling of the case, nor any decision-making power at all.

    Everyone involved was so involved according to the laws and societal beliefs about paedos of the 1970s, not the 2010s. This included a complete ignorance of the true extent of paedophilia in Western society, it included civil laws that were woefully inadequate, and an attitude of the Irish Police whereby they systematically refused to act upon complaints made to them, and a very deep misunderstanding of the nature of paedophilia itself, and complete gnorance of the actual severity with which such crimes affect the victims at both the psychological and the religious levels.

    Cardinal Brady is not personally responsible for the failures of the 1970s attitudes, no more than he is responsible for the sheer incompetence of the Irish legal system and Police, no more than he is responsible for decisions concerning this case made by his superiors at the time, and likely at the time being to the best of his uninformed 1970s knowledge decisions that he is likely to have considered as being appropriate ones.

    But beyond that, in more absolute terms, suggesting that he should share in responsibility for this would be like saying that a minor clerk at the trial of a mass murderer who got off scot free and then went on to go on another killing spree should take personal responsibility for those murders.

    It is a completely ludicrous suggestion — minor court officials have no responsibility whatsoever for any crimes that are examined by that court, nor for any flaws in the decision-making provided by that court.

  • JabbaPapa

    1) Rubbish — in fact there was no such provision in Irish Law, a legal fact that is severely criticised by the authors of the Murphy Report.

    2) He was a minor court official in a church court that was examining a complaint against a priest — as such, his duty and responsibility were to that court and to that court alone. Any such decision-making powers were taken out of his hands by virtue of his legal position as a subject of that court.

    3) The principle failure in the Republic of Ireland towards the victims of child sex abuses was the sheer failure of Parliament to provide adequate laws for their protection, and the abject failure of the Irish Police to provide any meaningful degree of action against child molesters when they were reported to them, as is also described in the Murphy Report.

    I mean, you just don’t understand the realities — the realities at that time were that if a child accompanied by his or her parents went to the Irish Police to complain about a sex attack upon that child, then the Police would in nearly every case do absolutely nothing.

  • JabbaPapa

    It’s less that the Irish monks worked more diligently than their Continental counterparts, it’s that their libraries and monasteries were not subjected to so many random bouts of pillaging and destruction from warfare.

    The monastery at the Mont Saint-Michel is in every way comparable to the Irish ones, for example, due to its similarly isolated and protected position — and its work towards the preservation, copying, and distribution of texts from the influx of manuscripts from Byzantium during the Crusades is just as precious as the Irish monks’ protection of the already existing literature.

    (The greatest disaster being the sacking of Constantinople by both the Fourth Crusade and the Ottomans)

  • teigitur

    Well Damo, I can only say what I came across in my working and “recreational” life.
     In the former, I worked in a city center hospital, and came across shoeless children a couple of times.( I kow the Barn and the Liberties very well). I also “worked “for the Saint Vinncent De Paul ( de vinnys!) in an area of the Northside( my favourite side BTW) for several years and came across it there too.  So sorry to contradict you, but that was reality. Rare but real.

  • teigitur

    There is no doubt , if you had a decent job in Ireland , life was very good. But as I said in another posting I was in the SVD de P for years and there was depravation that I could not believe too.
     I think that survey , though, does not just cover material goods, but general feelings of wellbeing. Being poor does not always mean being miserable, and the Irish tend to have a sunnier outlook on life, than people on this island.

  • G Ward

    I am so not sure what ye all are judging here. Unless I am mistaken this all happened 35 years ago. I can only memorise my own life then and I certainly would not like to be judged on my actions Christian or not. Cardinal Brady has served Ireland and its people well all these years. I would question is critics. Have you? Especially Mr Carter who should be pope the way he pontificates.

  • Bob Hayes

    A tad insulting to the sacred office of Pontiff, but I know what you mean!

  • Benedict Carter

    I’ll watch out for it.

  • buckingham88

     If you have a problem with BBC content in the UK, so do we in Australia.It pours in because it is probably very cheap, but seems out of touch.

  • Norman

    I watched the BBC documentary. It seems to me that Sean Brady may have breached his duty of care to the victims. Would a civil action for Negligence help establish if this was the case?