Cardinal fails to show at Confirmation day
THE official ceremonial booklet yesterday at a school-year Confirmation in chilly Dundalk said the celebrant was Cardinal Sean Brady.
But the only definite confirmation upon arrival was that the Catholic Primate of All Ireland was most definitely not turning up at the Holy Family Church.
Instead, an auxiliary was dropped in, offering loyal words of backing for the boss and insisting somewhat implausibly his non-appearance was perfectly normal.
Bishops routinely swap confirmation hosting, said Bishop Gerard Clifford, as the storm rages over how two children, abused by Brendan Smyth, were silenced.
There was nothing odd in Cardinal Brady, who has all but vanished since a brief interview on Monday, not fulfilling his 11am mornng engagement, he insisted.
The school in question might have begged to differ though. The cardinal's name was proudly printed under the school crest on the front page. Now he wasn't even there.
Then just as Bishop Clifford was swearing everything was hunky dory, he admitted it was HE who had offered to step in for Cardinal Brady. Why? Because the boss was "under pressure" up in Co Armagh.
The 100 or so children were just pleased to be celebrating their big day and as they filed out of the church, they of course paid no heed to the notices in the hallway boasting of how Cardinal Brady's Archdiocese of Armagh was committed to child protection.
In his sermon, Bishop Clifford had told the children to stick to their principles as they became adults. Outside he explained why the head of the church who was there when two children swore an oath of secrecy over horrific abuse allegations was not for quitting.
"Cardinal Brady, I know, has done more than most people for survivors of abuse," said the bishop, visibly not enjoying all the attention.
"I think he shouldn't have to resign."
It was a safe bet yesterday that Cardinal Brady would be at home in Archbishop's House, tucked away behind the magnificient twin spires of St Patrick's Cathedral.
Maybe he'd say something. He might bring a bit more clarity to the situation. He might even pose for a picture. The housekeeper might usher us inside for an audience.
But there was no housekeeper. Instead the door was opened in person by the Catholic Church's Dublin-based communications director Martin Long.
"Any chance of an interview?"
None. The cardinal was not saying anything today.
"Does he want to say anything at all?"
And that was that.
Mr Long went back inside as the cardinal hunkered down with his top aides, searching desperately for a strategy to get out of this one.