The head of the Catholic church in Ireland, Sean Brady, is resisting intense calls for his resignation following revelations about his involvement in an 1975 church inquiry into child sex abuser Fr Brendan Smyth, in which two children were forced to take a vow of secrecy.
Cardinal Brady has defended his role at a meeting with a boy (10) and a girl (14) who were abused by Smyth. He denied the oath of secrecy was designed to protect the church or Smyth. He also denied he helped to cover up other cases of sex abuse of children in the diocese of Kilmore and insisted he would not resign.
Smyth pleaded guilty to 74 charges of sexually abusing children between 1958 and 1993. Sentenced to seven years in prison, Smyth died in jail in 1997.
The cardinal was a priest and a teacher in Kilmore when he was asked to interview two children, under oath of secrecy, by the then bishop Dr Francis McKiernan. He said these interviews formed the basis of the action taken to remove Smyth from pastoral ministry. He did not report the matter to the police or social services, adding that he was not the “designated person” to do so, without explanation.
Speaking on Irish radio today, Monsignor Maurice Dooley, former Professor of Canon Law, claimed Cardinal Daly had “no obligation whatsoever” to report anything to the gardai.
“There is no law in Ireland or statute that requires that clergy report crimes to the police,” he added.
“Is it a sin against the law of God not to report matters to the police ....no I don’t think so... because there are certain people exempt from this moral obligation to report to the police,” he said.
In an interview broadcast this morning, Dr Brady said he was aware of the calls for him to resign but would only do so “if asked by the Holy Father”.
“I’ve heard those calls, I’ve said I don’t think it was a resigning matter,” he said. “I’ve also heard other calls, many other calls, to stay and to continue the work of addressing this most difficult problem.”
Abuse victims Marie Collins, Colm O’Gorman and Andrew Madden have called on the cardinal to resign.
He has “lost all moral authority or credibility”, Ms Collins said. “He knew in 1975 that Brendan Smyth was a child abuser but remained silent for the next 20 years,” she said.
Ms Collins said: “We’ve heard Cardinal Brady talk so many times on this issue and transparency. He never once mentioned being involved in the Brendan Smyth case.
“The Murphy Commission’s remit must be extended to every diocese. How many other children have to sign oaths of secrecy?” she said.
“We can’t let the church legislate for itself any longer,” she added.
The Labour Party called for a Garda police inquiry into Dr Brady’s role in the Fr Smyth case.
The party’s spokeswoman on Social and Family Affairs, Roisin Shortall said the cardinal was “hopelessly compromised by what had emerged.”
A victim of Fr Smyth called Samantha told the BBC the church needed to “root out the rot and start from the top”.
“This is not a witch hunt, this is about what is right,” she added.
The complaints of abuse were investigated by Cardinal Brady in his capacity as secretary to the bishop of Kilmore.
Samantha was abused by Fr Smyth, while she was at boarding school from 1974 to 1979.
“I just feel such sadness and such loss and there is just no need for it, if people had done what they are supposed to do and as adults, forget about the fact that they were priests,” she said.
“It is an adult’s job to protect children, regardless if it was 35 years ago or today and if he (Cardinal Brady) had done what he was supposed to do, I wouldn’t have been raped or abused for four of those five years.
“I just think it is so wrong. And I am one of the lucky unlucky ones, at least I can talk about it.
“I am still alive, I know two people who were abused by Brendan Smyth in that same school who have committed suicide.”