With just a month
to go until the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Irish
Catholics are again reeling following further revelations of Church mishandling
of abuse allegations.
Congresswhich is expected to attract some 80,000 pilgrimswill be the largest
religious event since the memorable visit of Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1979.
Hopes that the June 10-17 celebration of faith could be a launching pad for a
renewal of the Irish Church have been dealt a blow, however, by fresh criticism
of the Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady.
has come under renewed pressure to resign after a documentary aired by the BBC
in early May revealed that in 1975 he had the names and addresses of children allegedly
molested by notorious priest abuser Father Brendan Smyth, but did not tell
their parents or the civil authorities.
trained canon lawyerhad been part of a canonical process instigated against Father
Smyth. A teenage boy who had been sexually abused by Father Smyth gave the
names and addresses of other victims to Cardinal Brady, who at that time was a
Brady passed the
allegations on to his superiors but did not inform the police or the children’s
parents. Father Smyth continued to sexually assault one of the boys for a year
after that. He also abused the boy’s sister for seven years, and four of his
cousins, up until 1988.
An apologyand calls for resignation
Responding to the
fresh revelations, Cardinal Brady said, “I felt betrayed that those who had the
authority in the Church to stop Brendan Smyth failed to act on the evidence I
gave them,” insisting that it was up to his superior at the time, Bishop Francis
McKiernan of Kilmore, to act. However, the cardinal said he accepted that “I
was part of an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society, and the
Church, which thankfully is now a thing of the past.”
Brady went on to
point out that in 1975, “no state or Church guidelines existed in the Republic
of Ireland to assist those responding to an allegation of abuse against a
“No training was
given to priests, teachers, police officers, or others who worked regularly
with children about how to respond appropriately should such allegations be
made,” he said.
The impact of the
documentary was clearand immediate. All major Irish newspapers dedicated their
front pages to reporting the new information about Cardinal Brady. Radio and
television programs were abuzz with the revelations, with many peopleCatholics
and non-Catholics alikecalling on the cardinal to go.
It’s not the
first time that there has been a clamor for Cardinal Brady’s resignation. When
it first emerged in 2010 that he had information about Father Smyth’s abuse
that he withheld from the civil authorities in 1975, his position seemed untenable.
The cardinal took a long period of reflection in 2010 during which many,
including many bishops, suspected he would decide to quit. He surprised many,
however, when he announced in May 2010 that he would not be resigning but had
asked Pope Benedict “for additional support for my work.” He confirmed that he
requested support “at an episcopal level,” leading many to believe he was
effectively asking the Holy Father to appoint a coadjutor bishop with right of
succession. The cardinal didn’t elaborate at the time, only adding that “it’s
not yet clarified if it’s a coadjutor or auxiliary [bishop].”
He has resolutely
insisted that he will not resign amid the fresh controversy, althoughin what
could be construed as an admission that he will have to resign sooner rather
than laterCardinal Brady told reporters on May 7 that he hoped the Holy
Father would “quickly” appoint a coadjutor.
calls for his resignation, Cardinal Brady said that he has “listened to
reaction from people to my role in events 35 years ago.”
“I want to say to
anyone who has been hurt by any failure on my part that I apologize to you with
all my heart. I also apologize to all those who feel I have let them down,” he
continued, “Looking back I am ashamed that I have not always upheld the values
that I profess and believe in.”
“Healing will not begin while Cardinal Brady
But, while abuse
survivors have welcomed the apology, the man who told Cardinal Brady about his
abuse in 1975 remains determined that the cardinal should go.
was abused for two years by Father Smyth, starting when Boland was 12. He said
he thought that telling then-Father Brady of his experiences would prevent
further cases. But Father Smyth went on to abuse dozens more victims.
Boland said he
gave the cardinal’s apology careful consideration for 24 hours before accepting
it. But, he said, abuse victims can only heal if Cardinal Brady resigns.
“I wish to
acknowledge and thank Cardinal Sean Brady for the public apology tendered by
him to me and all abuse victims. I have sought this for a long time,” he said. “I
also note, and again acknowledge, the offer of a private apology as expressed
last November in the course of settlement negotiations in my case.”
“I hope that I
may yet find the strength to meet personally with him,” Boland continued. “I
note that Cardinal Brady has now acknowledged that the information I gave him
regarding other children being abused or at risk of abuse should have been
passed on to their parents in 1975.”
He added that “if
the right thing had been done by Father (now Cardinal) Brady, and Bishop
McKiernan, the unspeakable abuse of the other children I had sought to save
would not have happened. Both Cardinal Brady and I will have to live with our
guilt in that regard.”
“I know that my
healing, and I fear the healing of many other abuse victims, will not begin
while Cardinal Brady remains as Primate of the Catholic Church in Ireland,” he
and senior politicians have joined Boland in calling for the cardinal to go.
Even his fellow bishops have been less-than-heartfelt in their support. When
asked about the cardinal’s position, the country’s second-most-senior Churchman,
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, said “I’ve never called for anybody’s
resignation, I’ve never done that. Everybody has to make their own decisions.”
of Down and Connor Donal McKeown said that he believed Cardinal Brady’s
“ability to offer leadership in the Church has been severely damaged.” When
asked what advice he would give to the Primate, Bishop McKeown said he would
offer that advice to the cardinal in private.
One man not
content to keep his advice private is influential theologian Father Vincent
Twomey, SVD. As well as being a respected theologian and former seminary
professor, Father Twomey is a member of the “Ratzinger Schulerkreis,” the
circle of about three dozen former doctoral students of Pope Benedict who
meet annually with the Pontiff.
Reacting to the
latest revelations about the cardinal, Father Twomey told Irish state
broadcaster RTÉ that the Primate has lost the confidence of his flock after
failing to report Father Smyth’s abuse to the authorities.
said that there are issues which the Church must address about Cardinal Brady’s
failure to alert parents.
“For the good of
the Church, it is really tragic, but I’m afraid I am of the opinion that he
should resign,” Father Twomey said.
Just one member
of the Irish hierarchy, Bishop Colm O’Reilly of Aradgh & Clonmacnois, has
been willing to publicly back Cardinal Brady’s position. He told reporters that
he would be “very saddened” if the Primate is forced to resign.
“At the present
time, I would be full of regret if he weren’t to lead the Bishops’ Conference
in June [at the Eucharistic Congress], as he has given such high-quality
leadership to the Church,” said Bishop O’Reilly.
However, like Bishop
McKeown, Bishop O’Reilly conceded the present storm was likely to have a negative impact on the Church’s credibility.
these things chip away and that’s regrettable,” he said.
Pressure has also
come from senior politicians such as Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister
Martin McGuinness, who said he felt the cardinal ought to resign for his past
have taken issue with the credentials of certain politicians to offer advice; in
a veiled reference to McGuinness’ paramilitary past as a leader of the
terrorist organization the Provisional Irish Republican Army, Bishop McKeown
wrote on his Facebook page that “there are many of our leaders whose lives show
that, just because you have a past, doesn’t mean that you don’t have a future.”
“It’s hard to
take criticism of Cardinal Brady from many people who during the Troubles were
involved in state bodies, paramilitary bodies or who shared platforms with
those organizations, who did huge damage to children and their families,” the
Brady remains in office, but cuts back his schedule
who is 72, said on May 7 he intended to remain as primate “until I’m 75, or
unless the Holy See indicated it didn’t want me to stay.”
He said there was
absolutely no indication from the Vatican that it wants him to resign.
Cardinal Brady continues in office, his enthusiasm for the role remains
unclear. He had been due to administer the sacrament of confirmation in a
number of parishes across his Armagh archdiocese last week. However, his
auxiliary, Bishop Gerard Clifford, turned up in his place without explanation.
When contacted by
Catholic World Report last week about the confirmations, a spokesman for
Cardinal Brady said, “I don’t have information on Cardinal Brady’s confirmation
schedule.” When questioned as to whether the cardinal was unable to attend due to
ill health, the spokesman added, “His health is fine.”
While there is a
clear divergence among Irish Catholics about whether the cardinal should stay
or go, there is broad consensus that the controversy isat the very leasta
distraction from the up-coming Eucharistic Congress. While hopes that Pope
Benedict XVI would travel to Dublin for the event faded earlier this year,
Archbishop Martin had billed the event as a “unique opportunity for renewal.”
No one is in any doubt that the Church in Ireland, bowed by scandal and creeping
secularism, has a piercing need for renewal.
around Cardinal Brady is a painful reminder of Pope Benedict XVI’s observation
in his 2010 “Letter to the Catholics
of Ireland” that the abuse scandals “have obscured the light of the
Gospel to a degree that not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing.”