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Andrew Lynch: His only defence was trotted out by Nazis

Be sure thy sins will find thee out. Those words from the Bible must be weighing heavily on the mind of Cardinal Sean Brady today as he contemplates his future.

The Catholic Primate of All Ireland stands accused of covering up crimes committed by the most notorious priest rapist in Irish history -- and unless he can come up with a better excuse than he's produced so far, he's set to become the most senior casualty of the child-abuse scandal that has rocked the Church to its core.

The case against Brady, as outlined in a forthcoming High Court action being taken by a woman who was a victim of the late Fr Brendan Smyth, is crystal clear.

It is alleged that he participated in two meetings in 1975, when he was secretary to the Bishop of Kilmore, at which two teenagers had to sign an oath of silence.

Although by his own admission he believed that the allegations were true, he did absolutely nothing to bring them to the attention of the Gardai or any other authorities.

Cardinal Brady, who Martin McGuinness once described as "the most humble priest ever to become a cardinal", is visibly shocked by these revelations but has insisted that he will not quit his post.

In the aftermath of the Murphy report last November, he gave some of the bishops implicated in that truly shocking document a push out the door by saying: "If I found myself in the situation where I was aware that my failure to act had allowed or meant that other children were abused, well then I think I would resign."

Now those words have come back to haunt him -- and in an ominous development, his only defence so far is the one trotted out by the Nazis at Nuremberg that they were "only obeying orders".

If the Murphy report did anything, it was to explode the convenient "few bad apples" theory that the abuse was carried out by a small minority of clerics while their superiors remained in blissful ignorance. In fact, the evidence is now overwhelming that virtually everybody knew something was seriously wrong -- and nobody shouted "stop" until it was far too late for the helpless victims.

Nobody believes that Sean Brady is an evil man.

In a way, however, his obvious decency shows just how ingrained the culture of secrecy and fear has become throughout the entire Catholic Church.

If such an obviously holy priest could become corrupted by that culture, it's hardly surprising that so many perverts took advantage of it.

Even today, there are some very senior Church leaders who just don't get it.

At a press conference last week, Bishop Christopher Jones whined that he didn't understand why the media were always picking on his Church when only a small percentage of Irish paedophiles wear dog collars.

The answer is that no other institution has been engaged in the same kind of cover-up -- and given that they are still responsible for the education of so many children in this country, we have a right to expose their hypocrisy and demand that the guilty men are brought to justice.

If Sean Brady examines his conscience and realises just what a terrible sin he committed all those years ago, he may resign within days.

If not, then moral pressure must be brought to bear on him -- both from the Government, which could remove him from any state institutions where he is patron, and from ordinary decent Catholics who urgently need to make their voices heard.

The curse of Brendan Smyth, meanwhile, continues from beyond the grave.

In 1994 he forced the resignation of Taoiseach Albert Reynolds when it emerged that a warrant for his extradition to Northern Ireland had been ignored by the Attorney General's office.

Now, 13 years after he died in prison, he may be about to bring down the leader of the Irish Church as well.

Truly, God works in mysterious ways.