DUBLIN, Ireland, MAY 3, 2012 (Zenit.org).- On May 1 the BBC series “This World” broadcast a program titled “The Shame of the Catholic Church” on its Northern Ireland network. It accused Cardinal Seán Brady, the archbishop of Armagh, of not taking action to protect a boy abused by a pedophile priest, Father Brendan Smyth.
According to the BBC, in 1975 a 14-year-old boy gave the then Father Brady the names and addresses of other children who had been abused. Allegedly Father Brady did not pass on the details to the police or parents.
<p>After the documentary was broadcast Cardinal Brady issued a statement, published both by Vatican Radio and the BBC itself.
He said that six weeks before the program was broadcast he contacted the makers of the documentary to draw their attention to a number of important facts related to the 1975 Church inquiry into Father Smyth, which the program failed to report.
“To suggest, as the programme does, that I led the investigation of the 1975 Church Inquiry into allegations against Brendan Smyth is seriously misleading and untrue,” his statement affirmed.
He explained that he was asked by his bishop at the time, Bishop Francis McKiernan of the Diocese of Kilmore, to help others who were more senior to him in the inquiry process on a one-off basis. Cardinal Brady stated that his role was limited to that of being a notary or note taker.
False and misleading
“Any suggestion that I was other than a ‘notary’ in the process of recording evidence from Mr Boland, is false and misleading; I did not formulate the questions asked in the Inquiry process. I did not put these questions to Mr Boland. I simply recorded the answers that he gave.”
“Acting promptly and with the specific purpose of corroborating the evidence provided by Mr Boland, thereby strengthening the case against Brendan Smyth, I subsequently interviewed one of the children identified by Mr Boland who lived in my home diocese of Kilmore,” he explained.
Back in 1975 there were no State or Church guidelines in the Republic of Ireland dealing with what steps should be taken regarding allegations of abuse against a minor and, Cardinal Brady added, no training was given to priests, or police officers on how to respond appropriately when such allegations were made.
Even today, he went on, the person who first receives and records an allegation of child abuse in an organisation that works with children is not the person who has responsibility within that organisation for reporting the matter to the civil authorities.
Cardinal Brady explained that this obligation falls upon the ‘Designated person’ appointed by the organisation and trained for that role. “In 1975, I would not have been the ‘Designated Person’ according to today’s guidelines,” he said.
The program, he noted, gives the impression that he was the only person who knew of the allegations against Father Smyth at that time “and that because of the office I hold in the Church today I somehow had the power to stop Brendan Smyth in 1975.”
Cardinal Brady stated that he had no authority over Father Smyth and even his bishop had limited authority over him.
“The only people who had authority within the Church to stop Brendan Smyth from having contact with children were his Abbot in the Monastery in Kilnacrott and his Religious Superiors in the Norbertine Order,” Cardinal Brady explained.
“As Monsignor Charles Scicluna, Promoter of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, confirmed in an interview with RTÉ this morning, it was Brendan Smyth’s superiors in the Norbertine Order who bear primary responsibility for failing to take the appropriate action when presented with the weight of evidence I had faithfully recorded and that Bishop McKiernan subsequently presented to them,” he said.
Cardinal Brady also said that the makers of the documentary had been in possession six weeks before it was aired of a statement by the Vatican official in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in charge of matters relating to child abuse.
The statement said the following:
“It is clear to me that in 1975 Fr Brady, now Cardinal Brady, acted promptly and with determination to ensure the allegations being made by the children were believed and acted upon by his superiors. His actions were fully consistent with his duties under canon law. But the power to act effectively to remove Brendan Smyth from priestly ministry lay exclusively with the Abbot of Holy Trinity Abbey in Kilnacrott and his superiors in the Norbertine Order. This is where the sincere efforts of Bishop McKiernan and others like Fr Brady to prevent Brendan Smyth from perpetrating further harm were frustrated, with tragic consequences for the lives of so many children. I know that in his role as President of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Brady has worked tirelessly with his fellow bishops to ensure such a situation could never occur again and that the civil authorities in Ireland are now promptly informed of allegations of abuse against children. We have all learned from the tragic experience of the Church in Ireland but also from the sincere efforts of so many lay faithful, religious, priests and bishops to make the Church in Ireland an example of best practice in safeguarding children.’
Cardinal Brady also said that he was “shocked, appalled and outraged” when in the mid 1990s he discovered Father Smyth had gone on to abuse others. “I assumed and trusted that when Bishop McKiernan brought the evidence to the Abbot of Kilnacrott that the Abbot would then have dealt decisively with Brendan Smyth and prevented him from abusing others,” he said.
“With others, I feel betrayed that those who had the authority in the Church to stop Brendan Smyth failed to act on the evidence I gave them. However, I also accept that I was part of an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society, and the Church, which thankfully is now a thing of the past,” he added.
“It is my view that the ‘This World’ programme has set out to deliberately exaggerate and misrepresent my role in these events,” Cardinal Brady said.
“The programme suggested that no response to their questions had been provided before the programme was completed, whereas in fact a comprehensive response had been provided to the programme six weeks in advance and only days after the ‘door-stepping’ interview with me in Limerick,” he explained.
“I deeply regret that those with the authority and responsibility to deal appropriately with Brendan Smyth failed to do so, with tragic and painful consequences for those children he so cruelly abused,” he concluded.