Cardinal Sean Brady vows to remain as former RUC officer says failures let abuse go on
A former RUC officer who was close to the Brendan Smyth investigation has said that the paedophile priest would have been stopped from ruining countless other lives had he been reported to the authorities in 1975.
Cardinal Sean Brady yesterday vowed he would not resign as the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland despite new claims that he failed to act on evidence he obtained about clerical child abuse.
The beleaguered Primate — Ireland’s most senior cleric— remained defiant that he would not step down as church leader after mounting pressure grew following further alleged ‘cover up’ revelations rocked the church.
But Cardinal Brady failed to answer questions about his role in interviews with victims of Smyth, particularly why he did not tell police about his criminal activities.
Dr Brady blamed his then superiors for failing to stop Smyth continuing to abuse children over the next 20 years, adding that he felt “betrayed” by their inaction.
“I reported it to my superior, who then reported it to the superior of the priest in question. I trusted that it would happen,” he said. “We're not hiding behind procedures. There was no desire on my part to cover up, it was to make sure that this abuse stopped.”
Cardinal Brady’s staunch defence came after a BBC documentary said a 14-year-old victim of Smyth warned him in secret interviews in 1975 there were a possible five other victims.
It said Cardinal Brady — then a priest — had been given names and addresses of those being abused by Smyth. He passed the information onto his superiors but not to police or parents.
The senior cleric became visibly flustered when challenged about why he failed to report evidence of child rape to police. Dr Brady admitted there was nothing stopping him from going to civil authorities when he learned of accusations against serial paedophile Fr Brendan Smyth in 1975.
But he refused to take any personal responsibility for the failure, saying it wasn't his place to report the accusations and that he did what he was “sent there to do”.
The former RUC officer said: “It is my view that there were up to 30 victims of Brendan Smyth between 1975 and his arrest in 1991 — and to be honest there could be dozens more that we never ever found out about,” said the officer.
“Predatory paedophiles like Smyth just don't suddenly stop.
“I have no doubt these victims and God knows how many others would have been saved from the most horrific attacks had Smyth been stopped earlier.
“The failure of the Catholic Church to deal with this in 1975 is really unforgivable.”
Asked what he thought the then Fr Brady should have done, he said: “There was a culture of keeping this in the Church back then. But had he called in the police Smyth could have been stopped. He should have told the parents.
“That's my view but it's not for me to say whether he should resign or not.”
Dr Brady accused the BBC This World programme entitled The Shame Of The Catholic Church, which raised the new claims, as “exaggerating” his role into the 1970s investigation.
“I did what I thought I should do, namely I took the evidence very carefully I was acting as a note-taker not an investigator as the programme said.
“And my main concern there was that the abuse would stop. That the abuser would be halted.
“I had absolutely no authority over Brendan Smyth. Even my bishop had limited authority.”
He added in a statement: “With others, I feel betrayed that those who had the authority in the Church to stop Brendan Smyth failed to act on the evidence I gave them.
“However, I also accept that I was part of an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society, and the Church, which thankfully is now a thing of the past.”
In a statement the BBC said: “We stand by the programme which accurately and impartially reports its findings.”
Intense scrutiny on role
Cardinal Sean Brady — the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland — is facing mounting pressure to resign from his post over his handling of the case of notorious paedophile Fr Brendan Smyth.
The Primate of all-Ireland had maintained he was just a note-taker during meetings with a victim of Smyth — altar boy Brendan Boland who was just 14 at the time.
Allegations outlined as part of a BBC documentary into clerical abuse claimed Sean Brady was an investigator into the paedophile priest and that he had failed to pass on any warnings to other victims, their parents, or police, despite accepting the evidence of Brendan Boland and another boy.
A note for a Church inquiry into Smyth in 1975, at which Cardinal Brady was present, puts him in an investigative role.
After abusing Brendan Boland between 1973 and 1975, Fr Brendan Smyth went on to abuse more children, including the sister of another victim named to Cardinal Brady, who was abused for seven years, and four of his cousins who were abused until 1988.
Support from Armagh
Parishioners in Armagh have said while the latest allegations involving clerical child sex abuse has “no doubt” damaged the Catholic church they still support Cardinal Brady.
Patrick Corban, a parishioner for more than 70 years, said he felt Cardinal Brady was a “scapegoat”.
“Yes, the church and bishops at the time all handled the situation badly, there is no doubt about that,” he said. “But there is a larger agenda here. It seems to me the cardinal is being made a scapegoat here.”
The 76-year-old added: “He was at the time obeying the rules and reporting the matter to the senior He did everything he could within the rules he was working in. I believe he is a good man and should not resign.”
Another woman who wished to remain anonymous said: “There is no doubt in my mind that this has damaged the church. But I don’t think if he resigned it would do any good.”
Another man said: “The cardinal was a priest at the time and was doing what he thought was the right course of action.”
Priest’s superiors failed
Cardinal Sean Brady has claimed the only people who had the authority within the Church to stop the prolific serial sex abuser Brendan Smyth were his abbot and his religious superiors in the Norbertine Order.
Abbot Fr Kevin Smith stepped down from his position in the wake of Smyth's conviction for child sex abuse in 1994.
However, as Smyth's superior at Holy Trinity Abbey in Kilnacrott, Co Cavan, since 1969, he had known for some time about the paedophile priest's “propensity to molest children”.
Writing to UTV journalist Chris Moore in 1994, the abbot said: “Fr Smyth's behaviour has perplexed and troubled our community over many years.”
Fr Smith admitted he had made “many errors” in dealing with Smyth.
Smyth's abuse of children surfaced soon after his ordination as a member of the Norbertines in 1945. Fr Smith said the serial abuser was re-assigned every two or three years to prevent him from “forming attachments” to families and their children.
An ‘incredible’ response
A reired garda detective who brought a paedophile priest to justice said Cardinal Sean Brady's response to the fresh revelations is “incredible”.
Martin Ridge said the cardinal’s insistence of a lack of guidelines on dealing with clerical sex abuse in 1975 did not stop him from reporting criminal activity.
Mr Ridge, who helped the investigation into notorious child rapist priest Fr Eugene Greene, said: “I still find it utterly incredulous that anyone can say there were no guidelines on dealing with sex abuse when the law bans such despicable behaviour. It was the duty of anyone, regardless of who they were in 1975, to report rape and child rape to gardai.”
Asked if he believed Church leaders who failed to inform gardai of past crimes should face sanction, he insisted: “The (Irish) Government has spoken about making it a criminal offence for failing to report such crimes.
“My view is simple — such behaviour is already a crime. Withholding information on any criminal offence is in itself a crime by law.”
Primate: I followed rules
Cardinal Brady also admitted that little has changed in the Church with regard to reporting paedophile priests. He insisted he followed the rules at that time.
“I followed out in my actions, what I was sent there to do, to get the evidence, to bring it to the people who had the power to stop this,” he said.
“No, I didn't have any power over this man,” Dr Brady said, when it was put to him that he could have called police himself.
He confirmed that he wasn't forbidden by any of his seniors to report the matter to civil authorities; nor did he make further inquires to ensure that the matter had been dealt with.
“I reported it to my superior, who then reported it to a superior of the priest in question, and it was up to them then to take things on. That would still be the case today,” he said.
Dr Brady insisted that he thought something would be done about the allegations.
“I trusted that it would happen, that's why, when I discovered later on that in fact it hadn't happened, I was dismayed.”