Full text of statement from Cardinal Daly

By Cardinal Cahal B. Daly
Irish Times
December 6, 1994

[From the Demarest Archive.]

1. The conviction of Father Brendan Smyth in June 1994 and the information which has since come to light have given rise to grave and justified public concern. I am profoundly sorry that the crimes of a priest have caused such appalling suffering. I am further anguished that this misconduct was permitted to continue over such a long period of time. The wrong done to the victims and families is all the more cruel because it is a betrayal of the trust which they placed in a priest ordained to minister in the name of Christ. The wrong is not a past event. It may have long lasting effects on the innocent victims lives.

2. For these reasons, I have been reluctant to speak publicly about the Father Brendan Smyth case. However, it has become clear to me from many reports and commentaries in the media, both in Ireland and elsewhere, that there is wide-spread public misunderstanding about my own role relative to the Father Smyth case. It is, therefore, necessary for me to clarify the position. While nothing that I have said or can say in relation to the affair can take away the deep wound suffered by this family and other families abused by Father Smyth, I feel obliged to set out the following chronology of events.

3. I was Bishop of the diocese of Down and Connor from October 1982 until December 1990. Belfast, where the family referred to below lives, is in that diocese. In May 1987 a statutory social worker had alerted me to the problem of child sex abuse, but not in the context of abuse by a priest or religious. I asked the Director of the Down and Connor Catholic Family Welfare Society (the agency set up by the Church in Down and Connor for family welfare and counselling) to ensure that the Society's social workers had the specialised knowledge and skills needed to handle cases of child sex abuse. I instructed my priests, should such cases come to their attention, to avail of the services of such trained personnel. I also advised my priests that "children who report incidents of this nature should be presumed to be telling the truth and should be treated very sympathetically".

4. On 23rd February 1990 a client, accompanied by a parent, visited the offices of the Catholic Family Welfare Society in Belfast. They were interviewed by one of the Society's social workers. The client told the social worker about sexual abuses suffered at the hands of Father Brendan Smyth over a period of years. The social worker offered advice. She obtained the family's permission to inform the RUC and she did, in fact, report the allegations to the police. She also urged the family themselves to inform the RUC. Subsequently the social worker informed the statutory health and social services authorities.

The social worker also informed the priest Director of the Catholic Family Welfare Society (a priest of the diocese of Down and Connor) who in turn in formed my priest secretary. My secretary immediately informed me. I approved of the steps taken and, specifically, expressed my approval of the fact that the allegations had been reported to the police.

5. On 7th March 1990 a formal statement of complaint was made to the RUC by a member of the same family. Within the next two to three weeks there after statements were made to the RUC by other members of the family.

6. As soon as I was informed about the complaints, I telephoned Father Smyth's religious superior, Abbot Kevin Smith, who alone had ecclesiastical jurisdiction over him. Because of the gravity of the matters reported to me, I sought a meeting with the abbot. The meeting took place on 12th March 1990. I informed the abbot about the complaints. I told him that a social worker had seen the client and that the allegations of abuse had been reported to the RUC. The abbot accepted full responsibility for Father Smyth and undertook to take prompt and appropriate steps to deal with the matter.

7. From early March 1990, there fore, the Church and Church agencies in Down and Connor had ensured that the following steps were taken:

(a) The RUC had been informed and the police investigation had begun.

(b) The statutory Health and Social Services had been informed.

(c) Professional advice and help had been provided for the victim and the family.

(d) The accused priest's religious superior had been informed and had undertaken to deal effectively with Father Smyth.

I left Down and Connor in December 1990, having been appointed Archbishop of Armagh.

8. In February 1991, by which time I had gone to Armagh, I was contacted by the same family about the matter. I immediately contacted the abbot again, drawing his attention once more to the complaints of the family and strongly emphasising the need for him to take firm action to deal with Father Brendan Smyth. I also telephoned the parish priest of the parish in Belfast where the family lived and requested that he offer pastoral support.

9. The abbot wrote to me on 21st February 1991. He told me that Father Brendan Smyth had denied that there had been "any incident of that nature for a couple of years now" and that Father Smyth "only goes to Belfast to visit his doctor, and otherwise only visits his own family.

10. At or about this time I learned that the police investigations, which had commenced in March 1990, were approaching some conclusion and that Court action was anticipated. I now understand that on 8th March 1991 Father Brendan Smyth presented himself for interview by the RUC in connection with these complaints and made admissions of wrongdoing.

11. In August 1992, the family wrote to me again. They expressed their distress that Father Brendan Smyth had been seen in their district. Once more I communicated with Abbot Smith. I expressed to him my grave and urgent concern at the continuing failure to deal effectively with the problem inspite of firm assurances given to me in 1990 and in 1991. At this time I again telephoned the family's parish priest.

12. In October 1993 the family made further contact by telephone with my office in Armagh. I understand that, following these telephone calls to my office, the family, as requested by my secretary, made contact with the diocesan offices in Down and Connor. Through the Catholic Press and Information Office, I have already commented on these telephone calls to my office (see letter in The Irish Times, 28th October 1994).

13. At no time was I aware nor was I made aware of Father Brendan Smyth's long previous history of paedophile crimes. This history became known to me only through the media this year.

14. I have never had any knowledge of any ministerial placements of Father Smyth at any period of his ministry, neither was I instrumental in any such placement. Father Smyth was and remained at all times a member of the Norbertine Order. He never at any time had any assignment from me or any pastoral mandate which would have required him to be in Down and Connor diocese during my time as bishop there.

15. As Archbishop of Armagh, as Primate or as Cardinal I have no jurisdiction under canon law or otherwise over any other bishop or diocese or over any priest except the diocesan clergy of the Archdiocese of Armagh and the religious priests of the archdiocese as and when they exercise a pastoral ministry at my appointment in the archdiocese. I have never had any jurisdiction at any time over Father Brendan Smyth.

16. Finally, I wish to state categorically that at no time had I any knowledge of or involvement of any kind with any matter concerning the extradition proceedings relating to Father Brendan Smyth.


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