ASSESSMENT: The church took its time agreeing to appoint likely successor.
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
That is what Msgr Eamon Martin will be on his installation, probably at Easter.
cardinal’s request followed followed media revelations in March 2010
that in 1975 he investigated allegations of child sex abuse by Fr
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.
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
It has taken a little longer.
does not mean Cardinal Brady will stand down any day soon.
entitled to stay on until August 2014, when he will be 75, and indeed
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
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.
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
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
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?
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.