Friday, January 18, 2013

Mishandling of abuse cast a shadow over Cardinal’s career

THE appointment of an assistant bishop to the Archdiocese of Armagh marks the beginning of the end of Cardinal Sean Brady's 48 years in the Catholic Church.

Well regarded as a teacher and from his time at the Irish College Rome, the religious leader is broadly considered a decent man.

But his clerical career will be forever clouded by his mishandling of a probe into predatory paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

Cardinal Brady has faced a clamour of calls for his resignation over the scandal after it emerged he failed to share allegations of child sex abuse from the 1970s with gardai and the victims' parents.

He personally swore 14-year-old Brendan Boland to secrecy after interviewing him in the 1975 inquiry into the charges against Smyth.

The teenager's accusations, including names and addresses of other potential victims, were kept under wraps.

Cardinal Brady, then a 36-year-old teaching priest at St Patrick's College boarding school, Co Cavan, with a doctorate in canon law, passed the information to his superiors but Smyth continued to abuse over the next 20 years.

Now, the appointment of his successor in the Armagh Archdiocese has signalled his oncoming retirement.

Catholic-leaning think-tank the Iona Institute said his exit would ultimately benefit the wider church community.

"There is no doubt Cardinal Brady will always be remembered for his handling of the Brendan Smyth inquiry," director David Quinn said. "That cast a big shadow on him and that would be the chief reason for him to stand aside earlier than expected."

Most recently, Cardinal Brady has led church opposition against abortion law reform in Ireland.

The Vatican's announcement of a successor at this time could be seen as an opportunity for a cleric with greater moral authority and a proven child protection track record to promote the Church's views.

Aged 73, the Cardinal, a native of Cavan, is not required to officially offer his retirement as bishop until 75. He also has the option of extending his service.

"He is an extremely nice man - it's impossible to find anybody who knows him personally to say anything bad about him," Mr Quinn said.

Cardinal Brady's involvement in the Smyth sex abuse inquiry came to the fore in 2010.

It emerged church investigators knew at least five children had been attacked by Smyth.

On the back of deepening scandal, Cardinal Brady agreed to compensate the silenced teenage victim with a six-figure settlement in 2011.

The lawsuit in a Dublin court sparked further demands for his resignation, including from Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Clerical abuse survivor Andrew Madden said the Cardinal should have stepped down long ago.

"He ought to have gone, at the very latest, when the truth first came out," Mr Madden said. "His legacy is as one of the members of the hierarchy of this country, who participated in the process which led to the sexual abuse of children being covered up and their abusers being protected. The consequences of that were more children being abused. That's his legacy."

It was not until 1994 that predator Smyth was convicted in a Belfast court of 17 counts of sexual abuse. He pleaded guilty to another 74 counts of child sexual abuse. He died in prison in 1997.

Cardinal Brady issued a public apology to Mr Boland, and to all survivors of abuse last May.

He acknowledged he had mishandled the inquiry and that the parents of Smyth's victims should have been told, but then claimed his role as a note-taker had been overstated.

"I want to apologise to all victims who have suffered," Cardinal Brady said.

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