Cardinal Brady is sued by victim of serial abuse priest
Primate accused of not passing report on child victim of Smyth to gardai
Published 14/03/2010 | 05:00
Cardinal Sean Brady is being sued in his personal capacity by a victim of serial paedophile rapist, Fr Brendan Smyth, who is claiming the primate was one of three priests who interviewed her in 1975 about her five-year long ordeal and then failed to ensure it was reported to the civil authorities, including the gardai.
The cardinal was present at two meetings at which clergy interviewed victims of Fr Brendan Smyth in 1975. At both meetings the victims, a young woman who Smyth had abused for five years and a boy who was also abused, were made to sign oaths saying they would not discuss their meetings with anyone other than authorised clergy.
After 1975, Smyth went on to abuse many more children.
Cardinal Brady is being sued in a personal capacity as well as in his role as head of the Catholic Church in Ireland by the female victim who Smyth brutalised and sexually abused between 1970 and 1975, on occasions when she was taken on church outings. She brought a case against the church in 1997 and it has been in the High Court ever since.
Cardinal Brady is, according to court affidavits, accused of: "1. Failing to report to An Garda Siochana the fact of formal signed complaints against Fr Brendan Smyth of sexual assault and paedophilia on other children made to the church authorities investigated by them at interviews -- at which the second named defendant was present and participated -- on March 29, 1975, and April 4, 1975, respectively.
"2. Failing following such interviews to take any adequate steps to ensure that Fr Brendan Smyth did not continue to perpetrate sexual assaults on children including the plaintiff.
"3. Requiring and causing the two children, the subject matter of the inquiries held on the March 29, 1975, and April 4, 1975, to sign under oath undertakings that they would not discuss the interview with anyone except priests who had permission to discuss it.
"4. By failing in its duty to report complaints against Fr Brendan Smyth negligently deprived the plaintiff and others of appropriate medical treatment."
In a statement yesterday on behalf of the Cardinal, the Catholic Information Office confirmed to the Sunday Independent that Fr Sean Brady had attended meetings with then alleged victims of Fr Smyth.
The Catholic Information Office said: "In 1975, Fr Sean Brady, as he then was, was the part-time secretary to the then Bishop of Kilmore, the late Bishop Francis McKiernan. At the direction of Bishop McKiernan, Fr Brady attended the two meetings referred to in your email. In the Dundalk meeting, Fr Brady acted as recording secretary for the process involved. In the Ballyjamesduff meeting he asked the questions and recorded the answers given.
"At those meetings the complainants signed undertakings, on oath, to respect the confidentiality of the information-gathering process. As instructed, and as a matter of urgency, Fr Brady passed both reports to Bishop McKiernan for his immediate action," the statement added.
The Sunday Independent has learned that for 10 years the solicitor representing the woman had unsuccessfully attempted to force disclosure of documents relating to the handling of her case by the church. In 2007, the solicitor sought and received documentation from gardai who by then were examining documents relating to abusing priests. These documents finally disclosed the meetings at which Cardinal Brady was present. The case is still before the High Court.
In an affidavit before the High Court last December, the woman's solicitor said the victims were made to "sign under oath undertakings that they would not discuss their interview with anyone except priests who had permission to discuss it".
Cardinal Brady is the second named defendant in the case. The other two clergy are Fr Gerard Cusack, head of the Norbertine Order, of which Smyth was a member, and Bishop Leo O'Reilly of Lismore diocese, where the Norbertine's head abbey is situated, outside Ballyjamesduff in Co Cavan.
Fr Cusack and Bishop O'Reilly were not involved in any way directly with the young woman and are not being sued in a personal capacity but in their capacities as head of the order and head of the diocese respectively in which it is claimed negligence towards the victim took place. The proceedings are being defended by the defendants.
The lawyer, Brian Coady, of Murphy Coady Solicitors of Navan, Co Meath, wrote to the cardinal in January 2008, after examining the files unearthed by the gardai.
In his affidavit to the High Court last December, Mr Coady said: "I made it clear in my letter of January 25, 2008, enclosing the particulars of negligence that those allegations were made against the second named defendant (Sean Brady) in his personal capacity and not in his capacity as Catholic Primate of All Ireland. I also requested that the second named defendant indicate if he had any objections to same.
"However, the second named defendant client failed to indicate his position. I begged to refer to the copy of the letter of January 25, 2008, upon which marked the letters BC2 I have signed prior to the swearing thereof."
He wrote again in June last year. His affidavit to the High Court on this date reads: "By letter dated June 16, 2009, this firm again wrote to the second named defendant's solicitors seeking their consent to the amendments proposed by the statement of claim. I beg to refer to a copy of this letter upon which marked the letters BC3. I have signed my name prior to the swearing thereof.
"The plaintiff continued to wait for a response to the said letters in order to admit this application to be heard by the Master of this Honourable Court and to reduce costs. The second named defendant was aware of his personal involvement in and at all other details of the enquiry from the outset of proceedings and also knew that until September 2007 the plaintiff was unaware of same.
"In the circumstances the plaintiff assumed that he would consent to the amendment and gave him every opportunity to do so. However, at the date of swearing the second named defendant has not done so. In the circumstances, I believe the plaintiff has no option but to bring this motion before this Honourable Court."
By 1975 there had already been an enormous number of complaints about Smyth's abuse of children in Ireland, the UK and the US. At least one priest, Fr Bruno Mulvhill, had raised the complaints with the Irish hierarchy as early as 1968. It later emerged that Smyth had been abusing children from the 1940s but was continuously moved and allowed to go on abusing right up to the 1990s when his extradition from the Republic was finally sought by the RUC and he was convicted and imprisoned. It was the scandal that arose after it emerged that the RUC's extradition warrant had sat for months in the Attorney General's office in 1994 that led to the collapse of the FF/Labour coalition government. Fr Smyth died in prison in 1997.
The plaintiff, according to the affidavit, "suffered sustained and continued to suffer from very severe personal injuries, distress, trauma, loss and damage by virtue of the negligence and breach of duty of the defendants".
It says the defendants: "Caused, permitted, allowed or condoned church activities and in particular children's outings when they knew or ought to have known that it was unsafe to do so;
"Caused, permitted, allowed or condoned the organisation of such outings by a servant or agent of whom they knew or ought to have known had paedophile tendencies or was, in fact, a paedophile;
"Caused, permitted, allowed or condoned access to children and in particular to the plaintiff herein by a servant or agent who they knew or ought to have known presented a grave risk to children;
"Caused, permitted, allowed or condoned the plaintiff to assist in church-related activities in circumstances of great danger of which they knew or ought to have known of;
"Required the plaintiff to assist in church-related activities in which they knew or ought to have known she was likely to be sexually assaulted which in fact occurred;
"Caused, permitted, allowed or condoned a servant or agent to have unlimited, unregulated and unsupervised access to young children and particular to the plaintiff herein which access was utilised for repeated sexual abuse;
"Failed to protect children and in particular the plaintiff herein from sexual assaults by their servants or agents;
"Exposed the plaintiff to the immediate danger of ongoing sexual assaults which in fact occurred; and faced the plaintiff in a real apprehension of immediate battery being committed on her."
The affidavit states that the victim continues to suffer from the trauma of the violent sexual abuse which began when she was 14 and continued until she was 20. It states: "She complained of sleep disturbance, nightmares, reduced energy, mood swings, flashbacks and hyper vigilance. The plaintiff also suffered from a sense of estrangement, an absent sex life and distress even at the mention of sexuality. Her symptoms further included fear, nervousness, diarrhoea, choking sensations, muscle tension, increased heart rate and breathing difficulties. The plaintiff complained of thoughts of death, loss of concentration, interest and appetite. She avoids closeness to people including her husband and is fearful of rejection. Her marriage and quality of life have been greatly affected. The plaintiff was deeply distressed and overwhelmed by sexual abuse from the time she was 14 to 20 years of age."