Sunday 15 December 2019

Brady didn't tell Pope of Smyth abuse case

John Cooney

CARDINAL Sean Brady did not tell Pope Benedict he is facing imminent legal proceedings over his role in covering up the biggest clerical sex abuse scandal in the State.

Despite two days of intense talks between the pontiff and the Irish Catholic hierarchy in Rome last month, the Irish Independent has learned that Vatican officials were not told about the pending High Court proceedings.

Cardinal Brady is being sued in his personal capacity -- as well as in his role as Catholic Primate of All Ireland -- by a woman who was raped by notorious paedophile priest Brendan Smyth over five years.

She was forced to swear an oath that she would not discuss meetings she had with clergy, including the then Fr Sean Brady, about her allegations that she was brutally assaulted by Smyth.

This emerged as Cardinal Brady strongly rejected calls for his resignation last night over disclosures he failed to report the complaints to gardai.

Smyth was at the centre of one of the first paedophile priest scandals to rock the Catholic Church and was convicted of molesting about 90 boys and girls here and in the North over a 40-year period.

The controversy surrounding the case sparked the collapse of the Fianna Fail-Labour coalition government under Taoiseach Albert Reynolds when it emerged there were serious delays in Smyth's extradition to the North in 1994.

Asked if cardinal Brady had spoken with the Pope about the impending proceedings, his spokesman said last night that there were no specifics discussed.

"The discussions with Pope Benedict and nine curial cardinals were of a general nature," the spokesman added.

Cardinal Brady last night admitted he was at a meeting where children abused by Smyth were forced to take a vow of silence.

The Irish Independent attempted to contact all 23 bishops yesterday, but there was no reply.

The 70-year-old cardinal faced down calls from prominent abuse victims Colm O'Gorman and Andrew Madden, as well as victims' advocate Maeve Lewis, to step down. They accused Cardinal Brady of reckless endangerment.

Speaking in Co Armagh, a visibly shaken Cardinal Brady defended his role in the 1975 investigation, stating his actions were part of a process that removed the cleric's licence to hear confessions because he was a danger to children.

"Frankly I don't believe that this is a resigning matter," said Cardinal Brady. "I insist again I did act and acted effectively in that inquiry to produce the grounds for removing Fr Smyth from ministry."

But Smyth was largely shielded from this sanction by the Abbot of Kilnacrott and continued to molest children in Belfast and in American dioceses until he was finally jailed in the mid-1990s and died behind bars.

Just three months ago, the cardinal stated he would resign if he felt his failure to act had allowed children to be abused.

The cardinal said he was not the designated person to report Smyth to authorities back in the 1970s.

Colm O'Gorman, who founded support group One in Four, said the cardinal was deeply personally implicated in the gross failures of the Catholic Church in the management of Smyth and stressed he must resign.

"They carried out an investigation, they interviewed the child victims of this priestly rapist, Sean Brady determined in his own mind that these children were telling the truth and he then simply passed the information up the line and did nothing," said Mr O'Gorman.

"For another 18 years, as Sean Brady rose through the ranks in the Catholic Church hierarchy, Brendan Smyth continued to rape and abuse children."

However, it has emerged that 35 years ago Cardinal Brady -- then a part-time secretary to the then Bishop of Kilmore, the late Bishop Francis McKiernan -- took notes during two meetings with children whom he believed had been abused by Smyth.

The complainants then signed undertakings, on oath, to respect the confidentiality of the information-gathering process.

The cardinal denied he was involved in any kind of cover-up.

"I brought what I heard to the bishop, who proceeded to act," said a visibly shaken cardinal.


The woman in the case maintains Cardinal Brady was one of three priests who interviewed her as a teenager and failed to ensure it was reported to the civil authorities.

It is understood an affidavit submitted to Dublin's High Court accuses the country's most senior cleric of failing to report the formal signed complaints to gardai and of failing to take any adequate steps to ensure Smyth did not continue to perpetrate sexual assaults.

The other clergy named in court papers are Fr Gerard Cusack, as head of the Norbertine Order of which Smyth was a member, and Bishop Leo O'Reilly of Lismore diocese, as head of the diocese.

Neither men were involved directly with the young woman and are not being sued in a personal capacity.

Cardinal Brady is unlikely to face criminal prosecution over the alleged cover-up.

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