Defiant Brady will resist calls for him to step down
Cardinal wants to oversee major reform in the church
DEFIANT Cardinal Sean Brady yesterday signalled his firm intention to remain as head of the Catholic Church in Ireland despite widespread calls for his resignation since it emerged that he swore abuse victims to secrecy.
The Primate of All Ireland gave his strongest indication yet that he would not bow to pressure to resign as he vowed to oversee a major reform programme in the church.
But senior officials in Rome continued to say privately they considered Cardinal Brady's position to be untenable, and they indicated Pope Benedict was aware of the pressure to remove him.
Cardinal Brady, who had previously said he would announce a formal decision about his future on May 23, pledged to implement the recommendations of a Rome-led investigation later this year.
In a clear declaration of his intent to stay for the foreseeable future, Cardinal Brady revealed he would propose to the Holy See that his Armagh diocese be among those visited during the investigation.
The primate spoke out as a leading cardinal yesterday defended Pope Benedict during a surprise address at the Pontiff's Easter Sunday Mass.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals and a former Vatican secretary of state, said the church would not be intimidated by "petty gossip" about sexual abuse of children by priests.
The surprise speech was the first time in recent memory that the ritual of a papal Easter Sunday Mass was changed so someone could address the Pope at the start.
"The people of God are with you and will not let themselves be influenced by the petty gossip of the moment, by the trials that sometimes assail the community of believers," Cardinal Sodano said.
However, in his own Easter address hours later, the Pope -- who will be 83 this month -- did not once mention the scandal that has engulfed the church and plunged his five-year-old pontificate into crisis.
In his Easter Sunday homily at St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh, Cardinal Brady again apologised to abuse victims for his role in failing to report paedophile priest Brendan Smyth to gardai in 1975.
"However unintentionally, however unknowingly, I too allowed myself to be influenced by that culture in our church, and our society," he said.
The embattled primate resolved to keep the safeguarding of children central to the mission of the Catholic Church in Ireland. He pledged that, from now on, his overriding concern would always be the safety and protection of everyone in the church.
Cardinal Brady said the church had radically changed and there would be "no hiding place for priest child abusers". He also vowed to continue to promote improved programmes of religious instruction for Catholic schools and better faith formation for adults in his Armagh diocese.
However, victims' groups last night reacted angrily to the cardinal's declaration of intent to stay on as "a wounded leader" of the church.
One in Four executive director Maeve Lewis said she deplored the cardinal's lack of understanding of the gravity of his situation.
"It is unfortunate for the Catholic Church in Ireland that Cardinal Brady by his response does not understand the gravity of what he did -- and the fact that hundreds of children were sexually abused because of his decision not to act in 1975," she told the Irish Independent.
Meanwhile, a row that threatened ecumenical relations was defused after the leader of the Anglican Church in England, Dr Rowan Williams, expressed his "deep sorrow and regret" over saying the Catholic Church in Ireland was losing "all credibility".