A defiant Cardinal Sean Brady has signalled his firm intention to remain head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, despite widespread calls for his standing-down after it emerged he swore young clerical abuse victims to secrecy.
Victims’ groups were left furious after the Primate of All-Ireland yesterday gave the strongest indication he will not bow to pressure to resign and promised to oversee a major reform programme in the Church over the coming months.
Cardinal Brady, who previously said he would announce his formal decision about his future on May 23, pledged to implement the recommendations of a Rome-led investigation of the Irish Church which Pope Benedict will launch later this year.
In a clear declaration of intent to stay on for the foreseeable future, Cardinal Brady revealed he would propose to the Holy See that his Armagh Diocese be among those which will be visited.
In a lengthy Easter homily delivered at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, yesterday, the Catholic Primate admitted he put the reputation of the Church above bringing paedophile priests to justice.
He said the Catholic Church had a “misplaced concern” to avoid scandal driven by “serious mismanagement”, and admitted a Church culture to maintain reputation above all else led to a failure by him and others “to follow proper procedures and to bring abusers to justice”.
Cardinal Brady told a packed Armagh Cathedral: “I realise that, however unintentionally, however unknowingly, I too allowed myself to be influenced by that culture in our Church, and our society. I pledge to you this morning that, from now on, my overriding concern will always be the safety and protection of everyone in the Church — but especially children and all those who are vulnerable.”
It emerged last month that Cardinal Brady was present when children signed vows of silence over allegations against paedophile priest Father Brendan Smyth in 1975.
In his apology he reiterated his promise to stamp out child abuse in the Church: “Once again, I apologise with all my heart to all survivors of clerical child sexual abuse. There is now no hiding place for abusers in the Church,” he said.
During an emotional address, Cardinal Brady used the Easter holiday to declare a fresh start for the Church. As Easter Mass came to a poignant end faithful churchgoers were united in their support for both Cardinal Brady and the Church as they mulled on his words.
Parishioner Martin Brennan was defiant the cardinal “should not resign”.
“There were lots of mistakes made by him and lots of other bishops — but I think we should give them a chance. I don’t think he should resign, it’s not going to do us any good. Who has the experience? “ he said.
Dermot Kelly said he felt the Church was prepared for “radical change”.
“I thought it was very positive, very heartfelt and very sincere. I also think that the institutions in Ireland and elsewhere all need reform — that includes the state. I believe that the Church has a daunting task ahead, but I think there is a determination for a radical change and reform of the whole structures of the Church. I believe Cardinal Brady is placed in a unique position, because of his own unfortunate experience — that he actually is a force for good in this situation.”
Michael Duffy said he was satisfied with what the Cardinal said.
“I don’t think he will resign and I don’t think he has reason to resign,” he added.
Paddy Nugent said he felt he heard “the truth” at yesterday’s Mass. “He regretted his part in anything and you can’t do any more than that. I think we all look at this as a new start, a new beginning. It’s not up to me to throw stones at anybody,” he said.
Magela Geraghtey described the Cardinal’s comments as “honest and truthful”.
“I thought what he said was very sincere and heartfelt and I think his comments will be appreciated by a lot of people. The resurrection represents a fresh new year for the Church.”
Her husband John agreed: “I thought he was sincere in what he said and I certainly don’t think he should resign.”
Victims' groups last night reacted furiously to the Cardinal's declaration of intent to stay on as “a wounded leader”.
Meave Lewis, the executive director of the One in Four support group on behalf of victims, deplored the Cardinal's “lack of understanding of the gravity of his situation”.
“It is unfortunate for the Catholic Church in Ireland that Cardinal Brady by his response does not understand the gravity of what he did. By standing by his position Cardinal Brady is undermining the possibility of the Catholic Church in Ireland to go forward.”