Cardinal Sean Brady plans his exit strategy
Understudy will shadow cardinal, then replace him
An auxiliary bishop is to be appointed by the Vatican to work beside Cardinal Sean Brady as part of a carefully choreographed exit strategy for the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland.
The coadjutor bishop would be a senior Church figure who would act as the cardinal’s understudy in his role as Archbishop of Armagh, before eventually inheriting the role after a respectable amount of time had elapsed.
The furore over Cardinal Brady’s handling of child sex abuse allegations when he was a priest in the 1970s, which re-ignited this week, has taken a heavy toll on the Church leader.
He won’t be preaching over the weekend and is understood to be consulting his advisers.
The storm broke after a BBC documentary in which Brendan Boland, a victim of notorious paedophile Fr Brendan Smyth, revealed he had given Father Brady, then a canon lawyer, the names of other sex abuse victims during a Church inquiry into Smyth.
He never reported this to the police, saying that he was only a junior note-taker and that contacting the authorities was up to more senior clerics. Since then pressure from politicians for him to step down has been unrelenting.
Fr Vincent Twomey, professor emeritus of moral theology at Maynooth, where Ireland’s priests are trained, said the cardinal now lacks the authority to continue.
However, Cardinal Brady has already ruled out resigning.
He did so after receiving the endorsement of Rome, both privately and in a public statement by Monsignor Charles Scicluna.
The monsignor, whose title is ‘Promoter of Justice’, was appointed by Pope Benedict to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, known in medieval times as the Holy Inquisition.
He has overall responsibility for handling complaints of sexual abuse of minors and his words have papal approval.
“If you want to know how the Vatican thinks, look at history — how they dealt with these things in the past,” said Michael Kelly, the deputy editor of the Irish Catholic.
“They probably will appoint a coadjutor bishop with the right to succeed Cardinal Brady,” he said.
When Cardinal Brady faced similar pressure in 2010 after a UTV documentary, he asked Rome to appoint an auxiliary bishop, indicating he was willing to resign, but Pope Benedict gave him full support to continue.
At that time Cardinal Brady, who has high blood pressure, collapsed while giving children first communion in Kildress, Co Tyone, but later recovered. This time the case for appointing a coadjutor to work into the 73-year-old cardinal’s role is even stronger.
Cardinal Brady himself was appointed coadjutor archbishop to the ageing Cardinal Cahal Daly in 1995, and took over the reins completely a year later.
The same thing happened when Cardinal Archbishop Desmond Connell’s handling of child sex abuse claims in his Dublin diocese were scrutinised by an RTE documentary, Cardinal Secrets.
In 2003 Diarmuid Martin was appointed coadjutor archbishop, and a year later Cardinal Connell handed over to him.
Meanwhile, calls for the cardinal to step down have increased.
Helen McGonagle, a US lawyer abused by Smyth while he was a priest in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, said the cardinal must resign and be the subject of a criminal inquiry.
Martin McGuinness has again called on the cardinal to consider his position.
The Stormont Deputy First Minister said: “I don't think he realised it the other day. But I think he should realise it now, that he has a big decision to make.
“I hope he makes the right decision and I hope it's a decision which is recognising the suffering of those young people who were raped and sexually abused by Fr Brendan Smyth.”