| 14°C Dublin

Brady was rewarded for his obedience to Church rules. Now he should go

TWO years ago, when calls first started for Cardinal Brady to resign, the writing seemed on the wall for him.

At that point, the calls were made over his legalistic and perfunctory performance in 1975 in a Church Tribunal of Inquiry in which, among other explicit questions, a 14-year-old boy was grilled on whether he got enjoyment out of being abused by Fr Brendan Smyth.

I remember taking a phone call from a senior church adviser in the immediate circle around the Cardinal and even this adviser believed he should step down. But the Cardinal clung on.

The Vatican doesn't like to retire cardinals, the thinking being, if you allow senior management to be taken out, one day the mob will come for the CEO himself.

Italian Catholics historically have had a more earthly respect for Catholic cardinals. In the past, the cardinal's hat, called a galero, often hung from the ceiling of a cardinal's home cathedral after his death. Popular legend had it that, when a galero disintegrates and falls to the floor, the cardinal's soul has been released from purgatory and ascended to heaven. If you visit churches in Rome, many galeros are still hanging.

However, no one is suggesting that Brady is an evil man, or given to worldly vices; in fact, many would say he is a man of prayer. Yet he was also ambitious and ambitious within a system that rewards blind obedience.

And this is the core problem for Brady. Some conservative voices are saying the cardinal is a victim of the culture of secrecy that existed in the Church. But it was that culture that rewarded the ambitious Fr Brady, raising him to very high office and giving him the red hat over his rival in Dublin, Archbishop Martin. If he was a victim, he got well rewarded for playing the game.

It is probably fair to say there is a hung jury on the role of Brady in 1975 and afterwards, but the legal forensics really have no bearing on the broader political implications of his staying in office.

Two years ago, anyone with their pulse on Church affairs knew that Brady was badly damaged by the 1975 revelations. He turned this realisation, as many churchmen do, into a spiritual concept, referring to himself as a "wounded healer".

The Vatican agreed and wanted him to stay on and be the focal point of much-needed reform.

It's a worthy idea, but it hasn't worked in practice. The cardinal never stood out as someone with a gift for leadership. It is difficult to recall any major leadership shift by him in the past two years that singled him out as a man who had learned from the mistakes of the past and could take the Church to a new level. In fact, he publicly defended his friend and fellow bishop John Magee, much to the dismay of Catholics.

What was also clear in his performance on RTE yesterday was the lack of any emotion or human sentiment for victims. What we saw was Cardinal Brady denuded of the usual spin and stripped back to the canon lawyer core that underlines his often wooden and stiff performances.

The cardinal is being badly advised and should have taken early retirement two years ago. He now must weigh up what achieves a greater serenity for the Irish Church right now. Is the "wounded healer" now just a wound in the Irish Church? If he is not a cause of serenity, and he is not, then he should retire the hat.

Pentecost Sunday is coming up, the time when the Holy Spirit comes down on the Church. Catholics will be praying for the cardinal and praying that the Holy Spirit will guide him to do what is best for the serenity of the Irish Church and its future recovery.