Saturday, January 19, 2013

Appointment will alleviate the suffering of loyal servant Cardinal Brady The church took its time agreeing to appoint likely successor.

In what few solitary moments Cardinal Seán Brady may have had to himself yesterday he could have been forgiven had he gone down on his knees in gratitude that the pope had, at last, acceded to his request for another bishop in Armagh.

The Archdiocese of Armagh already has an auxiliary bishop, Bishop Gerard Clifford, who is 71. 

But it was understood in 2010, when Cardinal Brady first made that request, he was really seeking the appointment of a Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh, a would-be successor.

That is what Msgr Eamon Martin will be on his installation, probably at Easter.

The cardinal’s request followed followed media revelations in March 2010 that in 1975 he investigated allegations of child sex abuse by Fr Brendan Smyth. 

In the course of this he interviewed two boys whom he believed and then swore to secrecy as required by canon law.

It was said Cardinal Brady wished to stand down during that controversy but that Rome would not relent.

The 1975 investigation came to public notice again last May when the BBC revealed further details, including an interview with Brendan Boland, one of the boys interviewed in 1975. 

The word in church circles then was that a Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh would be appointed before Christmas. 

It has taken a little longer.

Rome’s pleasure 

It does not mean Cardinal Brady will stand down any day soon. 

He is entitled to stay on until August 2014, when he will be 75, and indeed thereafter. 

At Rome’s pleasure.

He was himself was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh in December 1994 but did not take over from his predecessor, Cardinal Cahal Daly, until October 1996, when the latter was 79. 

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin was appointed coadjutor archbishop in May 2003 but did not succeed Cardinal Desmond Connell until April 2004, when the latter was 78.

So it is not necessarily the case that Cardinal Brady will stand down in August next year, not least as he will remain eligible to vote in papal elections until August 2019, when he will be 80. 

What is certain is that he has had a horrible few years. 

His period in office, since 1996, has been dogged by the clerical child sex abuse issue.

This has been particularly the case following publication of the Ferns report in October 2005, the Ryan report in May 2009 and the Murphy report in November 2009.

Intolerable pressure 

In March 2010 the issue came to his front door with the revelations about his 1975 investigations. 

He has been under intolerable pressure since, with calls for his resignation from across the political spectrum in the Republic and Northern Ireland. These were repeated last May.

In the midst of this there was publication of the Cloyne report in July 2011, the recall to Rome of papal nuncio Archbishop Leanza and the closure of the Irish Embassy to the Holy See in 2011.

All of which has meant this thoroughly decent and genuinely humble man has become the highest-profile victim in Ireland of unquestioned loyalty and obedience to the Catholic Church, an institution which in the past placed greater priority on protecting itself than on the protection of children.

And, as with all institutions in difficulty he, a most committed servant, had to go on suffering for the sake of the church. 

 This ensured he remained at his post whatever his personal wishes, enduring the slings and arrows of a justifiably outraged people until Rome felt it was timely for it to modify his circumstances.

It took its time.

It would not allow a situation where bishops and/or other senior figures could be picked off willy-nilly by a mischievous media’s uncovering of “errors” past. 

Where would it ever end?

Reflecting on his decade as primate in an interview with this newspaper in December 2006 Cardinal Brady acknowledged that nothing could have prepared him for what had happened in the life of the church in Ireland since 1996. 

To cope he had “put trust in the Lord”, he said.

He could be forgiven had he questioned that too, at times.

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