Andrew Lynch: Pictures speak louder than words but not as loud as resignation

Andrew Lynch

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. Betrayal of Trust, a two-hour docu-drama about the notorious child molester Fr Brendan Smyth broadcast on RTE last night, did not strictly speaking tell us anything we didn't already know.

However, the emotional impact of seeing this horrific story acted out on screen was truly devastating -- and it showed once again why Cardinal Sean Brady must resign from his position as head of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

good friend

Today we think of Smyth's leering features as the face of evil. For much of his lifetime, sadly, many innocent Catholic families regarded him as a good friend.

He inveigled his way into their affections, buying chips and ice cream for the children before viciously raping them in their bedrooms while their parents made his dinner downstairs.

Nobody will ever know how many lives Smyth destroyed. He got away with his crimes for more than 20 years, as Catholic authorities moved him on whenever a complaint was made.

In one particularly shocking scene from Betrayal of Trust, a bishop urges a victim's father to drop the charges by asking, "How can Fr Smyth serve God if he's in prison?"

Even if Sean Brady had the guts to watch the programme last night, he must have wanted to cover his eyes at the very first scene. It showed a young priest and canon lawyer sitting at his desk in 1975, talking to two frightened boys who have clearly suffered terrible abuse at the hands of Smyth.

The cleric swears them to secrecy, ordering them to sign a document that means they can never tell their story to the police.

In most television dramas based on real-life events, some scenes have to be invented for dramatic purposes.

This was not one of them. That priest was none other than Sean Brady himself -- and while the future Cardinal was only 36 at the time, he was more than old enough to know the difference between right and wrong.

There is simply no excuse for what Brady did. By his own admission, he believed that the boys were telling the truth about what Smyth had done to them.


He colluded with his superiors in covering up the truth because he believed the church's reputation was more important than the safety of small children -- and judging by his decision to remain in place today, it looks as if he has learned nothing over the past 36 years.

When Brady's shameful actions first became public last year, he pleaded for a two-month period of reflection in which he could seek "the guidance of the Holy Spirit". Amazingly enough, the Holy Spirit told him to carry on doing his job as Primate of All Ireland.

Pope Benedict, meanwhile, signalled that this was fine by him -- perhaps not surprisingly, since Joseph Ratzinger once approved therapy for a paedophile priest in Germany who was transferred to a new location and carried on abusing children.

Brady's feeble response to the Cloyne Report is yet another reason why he should leave his post before he does any more damage.

When a politician such as David Norris becomes embroiled in scandal, we expect them to take action within a couple of days.

The Catholic Church has obviously decided to carry on playing by its own rules, since the Cardinal has simply issued yet another apology -- despite the fact that yet another cover-up of clerical sex abuse was happening right under his nose as recently as 2009.


The aptly named Betrayal of Trust has dramatised Brady's sins in chilling detail. If he feels unfairly treated in any way, he might consider taking legal action against the film-makers.

Otherwise, he has a moral duty to do what he should have done a long time ago -- and send his letter of resignation to the Vatican.