A senior member of the Catholic Church has provoked outrage after he said he would not stop a child being abused if it breached the confidentiality of a paedophile.
Monsignor Maurice Dooley was speaking amid calls for Cardinal Brady’s resignation over a failure to tell police about one of Ireland’s most notorious paedophile priests, Father Brendan Smyth.
The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland has been under pressure since it emerged he asked two of the priest’s victims, aged 10 and 14, to sign secrecy agreements 35 years ago.
Fr Smyth was eventually convicted of dozens of offences against children — but it was almost 20 years before he was brought to justice.
Defending the cardinal’s silence in 1975, Monsignor Dooley said he would not refer sex crimes against children to police today if passed information confidentially.
The monsignor, who has spent over 50 years in the priesthood, also said he would protect a paedophile priest who confided his crimes to him today because the law was on his side.
“I would not tell anyone,” he said.
“That is his responsibility. I am considering only my responsibility. My responsibility is to maintain the confidentiality of information which I had been given under the contract of confidentiality.
“There must be somebody else aware of what he is up to and he could be stopped.
“It is not my function.”
He added: “I would tell (him) to stop abusing children. But I am not going to go to the police or social services in order to betray the trust he has put in me.”
The clergyman told BBC Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan Show that he had reported a paedophile to police on one occasion in the past.
However, he repeatedly said that if faced with a situation where he received confidential information, he would remain silent.
The monsignor said it would be the duty of parents or guardians of children to report crimes to police.
“The relationship between priests and the person coming to them is dependent upon this acceptance of confidentiality,” he said.
“If the information is given to me in that context, then I certainly would not report the matter to police.
“If, on the other hand, I acquired this information separately from that, not in an area of confidentiality, then I would think seriously as to whether or not this matter should be reported to the police.
“And it is possible that my conclusion, after my consideration, was that I am the only person who can protect and the only way I can do it is by reporting to the police, then I would go to the police.
“I have done that on just one occasion where there was a known paedophile and I knew something about him and I went down to the police.”
North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness said Monsignor Dooley’s attitude was appalling.
“It’s scandalous,” the SDLP man said.
“I’m shocked and saddened by what he said. As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, anyone who has knowledge of child abuse has a duty to report it to both the Church authorities and to the police.
“Monsignor Dooley’s comments will have outraged practising Catholics and all right-thinking people alike.”
Ian Elliot, chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children, said the monsignor’s views were not representative of the Catholic Church.
“What he is saying is wrong,” Mr Elliot said.
“It does not meet the expectations that are held centrally in the Church.
“I will be pursuing the matter and I will be looking for an explanation. Attitudes like that need to be changed.”