Friday 28 October 2016

How church's black secrets ruined lives

Published 26/06/2015 | 02:30

Notorious paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth ia led from court, pictured in 1997
(NPA/Independent Collection)
Notorious paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth ia led from court, pictured in 1997 (NPA/Independent Collection)

A 14-year-old boy is hideously abused and degraded at the hands of a predatory paedophile who also happens to be a priest.

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The boy has no comprehension of why he should have been so vilely and cruelly violated at the hands of somebody in a position of strength and authority.

When finally he has a chance to get some answers, he finds instead that he is the one facing the inquisition.

It is the confused child who must put words on the indescribable indignities; he must relive the unspeakable evils he has suffered as he is asked dozens of questions.

Yesterday, the former head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, who was present as a note-taker during that boy's grilling - for that is what it amounted to - admitted that "on reflection", the inquisition would have been intimidating for a teenager and some of the questions were "inappropriate".


He also said that little or no consideration was given to the victim. Secrecy was essential because only secrecy could shroud the horrific truth and protect the reputation of the church.

Abusing priests were moved from parish to parish. The good name of the church was safe and the lives of little children were shattered for ever.

The industrial scale of the callousness that characterised the handling by the Catholic Church of the tenderest and most vulnerable in its care challenges all understanding.

Today, as a result of Fr Brendan Smyth's actions and those of too many like him, who were facilitated in the unspeakable crimes by the laxity and wilful suppression of the truth, the reputation of the church has been dragged into the gutter.

That "good name" they tried to protect was a sham, and it will take generations of atonement and reform to recover.

Trust is far easier to breach than to repair. The journey of renewal has begun and that is to be welcomed.

But a serial child molester was allowed to prey on children for decades. Men of power did not stop him.

Cardinal Brady, once the primate of All Ireland, sounded like an apologist for the inexcusable yesterday.

The phrase 'too little, too painfully late' is hard to avoid.

Irish Independent

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