Gerry O'Carroll: Church must never again place its own interests before the welfare of children

July 1, 2015

Brendan Smyth

THE country has been convulsed with shock, disgust and anger since the full extent of clerical child sex abuse became known.

This sickening scandal rocked the Catholic Church to its very foundations and destroyed the trust and faith of many.

Even more shocking have been the extraordinary lengths the church has gone to cover things up.

The overriding imperative of the vast majority of the church hierarchy has been to protect the good name of that institution at all costs.


Many a blind eye has been turned to the misery and suffering inflicted on innocent children by evil paedophile priests.

This was further highlighted dramatically last week when Cardinal Sean Brady, the retired head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, appeared before the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in Co Down.

Giving evidence about notorious paedophile Brendan Smyth, he admitted that secrecy was the prime consideration to keep the church's good name safe.

Smyth died in prison in 1995. He was convicted the year before on multiple counts of child abuse here and in the North.

He was a recidivist sexual predator who preyed on children in hospitals, schools and residential homes over a 40-year period.

His unspeakable crimes were covered up by church authorities, including Cardinal Brady, who admitted that the church's response to clerical sex criminals such as Brendan Smyth was "totally ineffective and inadequate" with "little or no consideration for those who had been abused".

Cardinal Brady spoke of a shroud of secrecy and confidentiality with a view not to destroy the good name of the church.

"To offset that, the scandal was kept a secret, very, very secret," he said.

It was an extraordinary admission coming from such a high-ranking church man and demonstrates very clearly the church's obsession with protecting its own reputation at the cost of the lives and welfare of innocent little children.

Cardinal Brady publicly apologised for his inaction in tackling clerical child sexual abuse.

The inquiry is shining a very disturbing light into the church's dark history over the past few decades.

As a result of the Murphy and Ryan commissions, the Catholic Church's handling of reports of child abuse has undergone a fundamental, enlightened and profound sea change.

The common laws of this land enacted by statute will from henceforth take precedence over canon law.

Church leaders can no longer evade their responsibilities and hide behind their archaic, outmoded and farcical church laws.

The church has a mountain to climb to regain the confidence of Catholics worldwide.

Monsters such as Brendan Smyth, hiding behind the clerical collar, can never be allowed to ruin the lives of children ever again.


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