Cardinal Sean Brady under Pressure over Abuse List

By Henry McDonald
The Guardian
May 2, 2012

Cardinal Sean Brady has been called upon by the justice minister to explain his handling of a list given to him by one of Brendan Smyth's victims. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA

The leader of the Catholic church in Ireland was under renewed pressure to step down after a television programme alleged that he failed to hand over a list of children being abused by the country's most notorious paedophile priest to the victims' parents or the police.

Cardinal Sean Brady faces fresh allegations that he failed to act after one of the victims gave him a list in 1975 of other children being abused by Father Brendan Smyth, who was convicted in 1994 of dozens of offences over a 40-year period.

While the Vatican appeared to be rallying around Brady, organisations representing the victims of clerical sex abuse in Ireland said these new allegations made his position untenable.

The Irish justice minister, Alan Shatter, described the testimony of an abuse victim who claimed to have handed over a list of names and addresses of victims to Brady as "tragic and disturbing".

Shatter said that if the allegations had been passed on by Brady at the time, the Irish civil authorities could have intervened early and saved some of the children from years of abuse by Smyth.

The minister said it was up to the cardinal to publicly explain his handling of the list given to him.

Brady came under further pressure when Amnesty International called on the Police Service of Northern Ireland to launch a criminal inquiry into the allegations against Brady.

The human rights organisation said that, as two of the children named on the list were from Northern Ireland, the PSNI should open a new investigation into the role of the Catholic hierarchy in the scandal.

If the PSNI opened a new investigation it could result in Brady being questioned by police officers under caution over claims by an abuse victim that the leader of Ireland's Catholics failed to inform police or parents about the abuse.

The BBC's This World programme focused its investigation on a secret deal in 1975 between abuse victim Brendan Boland and the church. Brady claimed he was the "note taker" as a priest during a meeting that ended with Boland agreeing not to go public over Smyth's abuse of him.

Smyth, who has since died, took Boland and other children on trips across Ireland, during which he abused them.

Brady's role in the affair was exposed in 2010, when he was forced to admit that he had been present when the abused boy was questioned.

The church alleged that Boland's father had accompanied him to that 1975 meeting, but the family says he was kept outside the door and was not party to the deal to which Ireland's Catholic hierarchy made the boy agree, effectively buying the child's silence.

The BBC investigation uncovered the notes that Brady took while the boy was questioned. The programme said that the child's father was not allowed in the room, and the boy was immediately sworn to secrecy.

But the most potentially damaging disclosure is that Brady then failed to inform either parents or the police about Boland's claim about a list of other children Smyth was abusing.

According to the programme, Brady did interview one of them and also swore him to secrecy.

None of the children's parents or the police were told, leaving one boy, his sister and dozens of other children exposed to Smyth's sex attacks for a further 13 years.

The Catholic church has said that "the sole purpose of the oath" signed by Boland was "to give greater force and integrity to the evidence given by Mr Boland against any counter-claim by Fr Brendan Smyth".

The church also points out that in 1975, "No state or church guidelines for responding to allegations of child abuse existed in Ireland."

Defending Brady's actions, Vatican official Monsignor Charles Scicluna said: "I think he fulfilled his duty well."

The promoter of justice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith a major force inside the Vatican added that he was sure Brady was still a fit person to lead the church in Ireland.

When asked if Brady had any questions to answer as a result of the BBC documentary, Scicluna said: "I don't think so, no."

But Andrew Madden, who documented his own abuse at the hands of a north Dublin priest in the book Altar Boy, told the Guardian that this latest disclosure about the cardinal must lead to his resignation.

"Once we learned of the 1975 process and that he kept his mouth shut, he should have resigned right away.

"It is very, very difficult to have confidence in the Catholic church's current child protection measures if Sean Brady is still in charge, [a] leader who was involved in concealing the sexual abuse of children."

Madden added: "The problem is that [Brady] is still there because his actions are not unacceptable to the Vatican and some of his supporters in Armagh. That is why he stays. He remains in place because he has support all the way up to Vatican level. And there are other bishops in Ireland who are as bad as Sean Brady. They have no credibility on the subject of child protection."

Abuse victims campaigner Marie Collins, who was raped at 13 by a hospital chaplain in Dublin, said Brady should resign. "I'm amazed no bishops have come out and said he should go. We have priests and theologians being silenced by the Vatican they can act against people whose views they feel are liberal, but they will not act against someone who not only endangered children but let them be abused.

"If Brady came out and espoused the view that women should be ordained, he'd be gone within hours."








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.