Dublin, Ireland - Pressure is building on the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, to resign in the wake of damaging accusations made against him in a BBC television documentary about his role in a secret inquiry into clerical sexual abuse.
Abuse survivors, senior government ministers, serving priests, canon lawyers, newspaper editorials, police officials, human rights groups and the head of the country’s biggest children’s charity were among those calling on the cardinal to step down Thursday over his failure 37 years ago to report damning evidence against the Rev. Brendan Smyth. That failure allowed Father Smyth to continue abusing children for at least 13 more years.
Father Smyth, who died in prison at age 70, was convicted in the 1990s and admitted to molesting and raping about 100 children in Ireland and the United States.
Speaking in Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore on Thursday described the disclosures in the BBC program as “another horrific episode of failure by senior members of the Catholic Church to protect children” and said the cardinal should resign for failing to report the accusations.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who delivered a landmark speech last year denouncing Vatican interference in investigations into clerical sexual abuse, said the office he held precluded him from calling for the cardinal’s resignation, but on Wednesday he said the primate should “reflect” on the contents of the BBC program.
Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, a Catholic, said the cardinal’s decision to stay on would “leave many Catholics wondering whether anything is to be done by the leadership of the Catholic Church to ring the changes which many believe are required at such a sad time for all.”
The calls for Cardinal Brady’s resignation were echoed by Fergus Finlay, the chief executive of the children’s charity Barnardo’s, who said the cardinal had a “moral responsibility” to follow up on what he had heard and “to break ranks if he discovered nothing had been done.”
Cardinal Brady has insisted that his role in the 1975 internal church investigation was secretarial in nature and that he had fulfilled his duty by passing on to his superior accurate transcripts of meetings with children who said they had been abused.
However, the BBC documentary, which was shown Tuesday, produced handwritten documents concerning one such interrogation involving Brendan Boland, a 14-year-old who came forward to accuse Father Smyth. In the documents, Father Brady, not yet a prelate, described himself as having been “dispatched to investigate the complaint,” prompting accusations that he bore greater responsibility than he has admitted.
“The documentation of the interview with Brendan Boland, signed in his presence, clearly identifies me as the ‘notary’ or ‘note taker,’ ” the cardinal said in a statement in response to the program. “Any suggestion that I was other than a notary in the process of recording evidence from Mr. Boland is false and misleading.”
Cardinal Brady said he “felt betrayed” on learning almost two decades later that the notes he had passed on had not been acted upon by his superiors, leaving the way for Father Smyth to abuse numerous other children, including those named in the interview by Mr. Boland.
His critics rejected the cardinal’s version of events. Sam Adair, one of those abused by Father Smyth after 1975, told Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE: “The facts of the matter are that this man was a leading, skilled canon lawyer, highly paid and sought after, and promoted to the highest rank of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe. He was a skilled canon lawyer; he was not a note-taker.”
Father Smyth, one of Ireland’s most notorious clerical pedophiles, was moved from parish to parish for 40 years, leaving a trail of accusations in his wake. He was first jailed in a sexual abuse case in 1994. On his release in 1997, he was extradited to the Irish Republic, where he was sentenced to 12 more years; he died having served less than a year.