Monday 20 November 2017

Cardinal Brady faces renewed calls to quit

Cardinal Sean Brady after a confirmation service at Church of Our Lady of the Wayside in Co Louth
Cardinal Sean Brady after a confirmation service at Church of Our Lady of the Wayside in Co Louth

Cardinal Sean Brady faced a fresh storm of criticism tonight after refusing to resign as head of the Catholic Church in Ireland over his handling of child abuse claims.

The Primate of all Ireland's decision to remain in post, despite an unrelenting clamour for him to step down, provoked an angry response from victims of clerical sex crimes and even fellow members of the cloth.

But the 70-year-old was in defiant mood outside his residence at Armagh Cathedral earlier today, vowing to stay on and lead the church's efforts to improve child protection safeguards.

The Cardinal has been under intense pressure since it emerged earlier this year that he was at a meeting in the 1970s where two young victims of notorious paedophile priest Brendan Smyth signed vows of secrecy.

The civil authorities were not informed, enabling Smyth to continue his vile reign of abuse for a further two decades.

Survivors of clerical abuse said the Primate's refusal to go was a clear sign the church had not changed, while a number of priest broke rank to criticise their leader's decision.

Marie Collins, who abused as a child in Crumlin Children's Hospital in Dublin, met with the Cardinal several weeks ago as he canvassed opinion on his future.

"I think the church needs new leadership and I'm disappointed that we're not going to get it," she said.

"It's not a question of revenge, it's a question of taking responsibility. We can't have change in the church here until everyone in the top realises how actions of the past decimated so many lives."

Fellow survivor Andrew Madden said he was not surprised by the Cardinal's pledge to stay in his post, adding he did not believe the cleric had any intention of resigning.

"I think they have a huge credibility problem if they try to speak of child protection or other moral issues when their own leadership was involved in the cover-up of the sexual abuses of children and kept it quiet for 35 years," he said.

Dublin-based priest Fr Pat McCafferty, himself a victim of clerical abuse as a child, said the Primate's position had been undermined.

"All of this continues to provoke the suffering of victims and I believe that Cardinal Brady although he hasn't resigned he may as well have resigned because I believe his position is very damaged," he said.

Co Antrim priest John Burns claimed Dr Brady had let self-interest take priority over what was right for the church.

"At this stage sadly Cardinal Brady is an obstacle to the renewal of the church rather than a means to achieve it," he said.

BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme was bombarded with texts and calls about the issue today and around 85% were critical of the Cardinal's decision to stay on.

But the Primate and Archbishop of Armagh insisted that the majority of people he had spoken to over the last two months had urged him to stay.

"I was on pilgrimage to Lourdes yesterday with 800 people from this diocese and not one said they had no confidence in me, they said they wanted me to stay and continue this work," he said.

Dr Brady told mass-goers at his St Patrick's Day homily in March that he would take a period of time to reflect on his future in the church.

He confirmed he would stay on following the announcement yesterday of an all-island audit into how the church handles abuse allegations.

"It certainly wasn't an easy decision," he said.

"I have listened to a lot of people, reflected as I said I would. I listened to survivors, to priests, to religious people up and down the length of this diocese and I have decided to continue in my present role, to play my part in this diocese. Because I want to maintain the momentum towards better child safeguarding and ... also the momentum towards renewal of the faith, which is essential here and a big challenge."

The Primate faced damning criticism after it emerged he interviewed two young people in 1975 who alleged they were abused by the infamous Brendan Smyth.

The Cardinal, who has spent weeks meeting survivors of abuse publicly and privately, did not report the case to the police.

After first indicating his desire to stay on last night, the Cardinal said his diocese of Armagh would appoint a full-time director of child safeguarding to handle all future suspicions and allegations of abuse and report directly to civil authorities.

This morning he had a message for the victims still calling for him to go. He said: "I am deeply sorry that they were abused by anybody but especially if it happened by priests or religious (figures).

"I'm sorry if my decision yesterday has upset them, I want to only do what is healing, which I think is the first thing, the programme of healing of those people."

The Primate said he had asked for his own diocese to be inspected by Vatican officials.

The Cardinal went on to praise the work of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, which will run the review.

He said diocesan staff have been asked to fully participate in the soon-to-be-created Independent Safeguarding Authority in Northern Ireland.

It will allow the sharing of soft information on clergy, and the Cardinal called for a similar system be set up in the Republic and to allow cross-border sharing of information.

Press Association

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