Brady won't be removed by hierarchy outsiders
But the sickened and outraged faithful can find him nonetheless guilty of inaction, writes Ciara Kelly
Published 21/03/2010 | 05:00
'Hopelessly inadequate" was how the Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, described his actions in relation to paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth in his homily at St Patrick's Day Mass. The inadequacies to which he referred relate to meetings in 1975 between the then Fr Brady -- part-time secretary to the Bishop of Kilmore -- and two children who accused Fr Brendan Smyth, a rapacious paedophile, of assaulting them.
Cardinal Brady has said he believed the children's allegations, and he took statements from them, which he passed on to the bishop. He then got the children to "confirm by oath that they would preserve the confidentiality of the interview process" -- take an oath of secrecy.
The cardinal has said they were not trying to silence the children about the abuse itself with this oath of secrecy, but rather about the interview process so as "to avoid potential collusion" in evidence-gathering, so that statements could withstand challenge by Smyth.
However you'd have to wonder if, in 1975, two children under interrogation by church authorities and forced to sign oaths of secrecy were able to fully grasp that distinction. Not only did Fr Sean Brady fail to inform the gardai about the molestation of these children by Smyth, in effect he prevented the children from going to the gardai as well. The lack of intervention by the church allowed Smyth to continue his campaign of child rape unchecked for almost another 20 years until his final arrest in 1994.
Cardinal Brady's homily, whilst welcome, came after a week where he argued that he did everything he could to stop Smyth by passing on his report to his superiors who were in charge -- the Nuremburg defence. But it must be asked why his admission was wrung from him only following intense pressure from the media, victims' groups and even Archbishop Diarmuid Martin -- the lone voice of humility within the Catholic hierarchy.
Politicians also rowed in; Brian Cowen, John Gormley and Martin McGuinness have all publicly stated that the cardinal should consider his position. McGuinness's stance was interesting, as Sinn Fein's own approach to child sexual abuse within the republican family has come under scrutiny recently and found to be wanting.
Despite the litany of abuse priests have perpetuated against children -- raping them, isolating them from their families in a fog of guilt and shame, distorting their relationship with God, intimidating them into silence, discrediting those who did speak out so that many were not believed and were treated like the wrongdoers -- many people still have a deep-seated loyalty to the church that would allow them to forgive and allow the renewal that Cardinal Brady has spoken of to take place -- if it weren't for the fact that it's very hard to forgive someone who only admits they're wrong under duress, and only shows remorse after coercion.
From Pope Benedict down, they still fail to grasp how heinous their crimes against innocent children are, or how repellent their defence of the indefensible is.
Monsignor Maurice Dooley on Pat Kenny's radio show earlier this week was a prime example of this. He came out fighting and gave a robust and utterly sickening defence of Cardinal Brady's actions -- citing canon law as the reason Brady had done no wrong. He said that canon law, as God's law, was above man's law. I'm sure God nearly threw up to hear 'His law' used in an attempt to justify the cover-up of child rape. Surely on a moral issue, getting off on a technicality is hardly worthy of the universal church.
Mgr Dooley seemed to believe that preventing Smyth from hearing confessions was reasonable sanction to impose on the serial rapist. As if changing Smyth's job description offered adequate child protection or an appropriate punishment for his crimes. Despite being given an opportunity to redeem himself when Kenny asked the Mgr Dooley if he now thought, with hindsight, that it would have been better had the church handled Smyth differently in 1975, in his arrogance and stupidity, he said no. I'm sure the victims -- at least one of whom committed suicide -- who were raped after 1975 feel very differently.
In contrast to clerics who can't seem to condemn atrocities (the parallels with Sinn Fein keep on growing), in Limerick last week the head of the Franciscan friars in Moyross, Brother Sean O'Connor, commenting on the Good Friday rugby match between Munster and Leinster, said: "If you identify yourself as a Catholic then you should be nowhere near Thomond Park on that day."
Now I realise Good Friday is one of the most important days on the Christian calender, but when you can't get a Catholic priest to admit that covering up the activities of a child rapist is wrong, and on the other hand you've got a religious coming out saying attending a sporting event on Good Friday is incompatible with Catholicism, you have to wonder just how messed up are the morals and priorities of the Catholic Church?
Cardinal Brady has said he would not resign unless the Pope asked him to and that he
wished to be involved with the healing and renewal of the Catholic Church following the Murphy and Ryan reports, but it's questionable whether the victims of clerical child abuse will want a man whose actions arguably helped allow further children to be abused by Smyth to lead any such renewal. Materially, it matters little if those outside the Catholic Church want him to go. What remains to be seen is if the congregation will follow him.
Having been asked by the church for almost a generation now to accept that they were struggling themselves to deal with paedophilia and that they did their best; perhaps it's timely to remember these words from John Acton in 1887 rejecting papal infallibility: "I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."