Cardinal Sean Brady has suffered a new blow after the majority of priests in his diocese snubbed a meeting that has been organised as a show of support for the embattled leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland.
Just 20 of 150 priests in the Armagh Archdiocese who had been invited to attend a prayer gathering in support of Dr Brady (below) actually showed up — with many privately voicing concerns about his leadership.
The poor turn-out at the meeting is the most overt response by rank-and-file priests to new allegations surrounding Cardinal Brady's handling of abuse allegations made against notorious paedophile Fr Brendan Smyth.
It follows calls by a number of politicians north and south of the border for the cardinal to consider his position.
Church insiders said Dr Brady had been keeping a low profile for the past fortnight after allegations in a BBC documentary.
Despite defending his position in the immediate aftermath of the programme, the cardinal has rarely been seen out in public since and has not been presiding at confirmation ceremonies.
Dr Brady had claimed he received a lot of support from within the Church to stay on in his role as Primate of All Ireland.
However, the revelation that so few priests attended the prayer meeting suggests that his analysis may not be the correct one.
The BBC documentary revealed how in the mid-1970s the then Fr Brady had been informed by 14-year-old abuse victim Brendan Boland that other children were being abused by Smyth.
Mr Boland gave the names and addresses of other children in danger from Smyth.
But despite being given this information, the then Fr Brady and his superiors did nothing to warn the parents of Smyth's victims.
Other factors also played a part in the poor attendance, according to priests in the diocese.
Priests in Armagh who were contacted about the matter complained of low morale.
One said he felt that the poor turnout “was a sign that priests of the diocese are very fed up”.
A spokesman for Cardinal Brady claimed that the poor attendance last Friday week was due to “short notice”.