27 Nov 2010

Irish Cardinal sued for failing to report serial abuser priest to police, says he was not designated to report abuse

Belfast Telegraph - March 15, 2010

Cardinal Sean Brady: I didn’t help hide priest’s child abuse

Cardinal Sean Brady last night rejected calls to resign over his role as a bishop’s secretary in the Catholic Church’s cover-up of crimes by paedophile priest Father Brendan Smyth, who abused dozens of children over four decades.

He acknowledged he attended separate meetings with two of Smyth’s victims in 1975 in which they were asked to sign an oath of silence as the Church looked for evidence against the priest.

The investigation which Cardinal Brady was part of led to Smyth officially being thrown out of the Church — but he went on to abuse again before being convicted in the 1990s of crimes in the Republic and Northern Ireland.

And it emerged last night that Cardinal Brady did not tell Pope Benedict he was facing imminent legal proceedings — he is being sued by another of Smyth’s victims over his failure to report the crimes.

But despite two days of intense talks between the pontiff and the Irish Catholic hierarchy in Rome last month, it has been learned that Vatican officials were not told about the pending Irish High Court action.

Asked if Cardinal Brady had spoken with the Pope about the impending proceedings, his spokesman said last night that there were no specifics discussed.

Cardinal Brady yesterday said he was not the designated person at the time to report the abuse to the authorities, adding: “Frankly I don’t believe that this is a resigning matter.”

Describing his role in one of the cases, he said he acted in an interview with a victim as a “notary” instructed by then Bishop of Kilmore Francis McKiernan, who he said had set up a canonical inquiry to get evidence against Smyth.

“I didn’t have any decision-making power in it,” said Cardinal Brady. “The reason for the oath was to give it credibility and strength in law and robustness against any challenge because he was going to use the evidence which this inquiry would produce to take disciplinary action. That inquiry got under way.

“In the space of two or three weeks he had the firm reasons which he wanted to remove Father Brendan Smyth and he immediately set out to Kilnacrott Abbey (where Smyth was based) and did so. That’s on the record.”

Maeve Lewis from One in Four, a support group for victims of abuse, condemned the cardinal’s failure to report the abuse.

“This latest disclosure removes Cardinal Brady's credibility to provide the leadership that is so vital at this time, leaving him no option but to resign,” she said.

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The Guardian - UK March 14, 2010

Irish cardinal refuses to quit amid court case over paedophilia 'cover-up'

Victim sues Irish Catholic church leader Sean Brady over role in Brendan Smyth secret tribunal

Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent

Ireland's most senior Catholic cleric tonight faced down calls to resign after revealing that he was at a secret tribunal where sex abuse victims were made to take an oath of silence.

Cardinal Sean Brady said that he had attended two meetings in 1975 concerning Father Brendan Smyth, a notorious paedophile, where two of Smyth's victims signed an affidavit promising to discuss their claims only with a specified priest.

Brady is now being sued, both as an individual and in his role as Catholic primate of all Ireland, by one of Smyth's female victims who alleges she was abused for five years.

In an affidavit submitted to Dublin's high court, Brady is accused of failing to report the victims' formal signed complaints to the Irish police and of failing to take adequate steps to ensure that Smyth did not continue to assault children.

But the cardinal defended his role in the investigation, stating his actions were part of a process that removed the shamed cleric's licence to act as a priest.

"Frankly I don't believe that this is a resigning matter," Brady said.

The tribunal was held behind closed doors in 1975. Smyth was accused of sexually abusing two 10-year-olds, but the church did not inform the gardai about the allegations at the time. It was only in 1994, after a documentary about Smyth, that the church admitted it had known about his paedophilia and moved him around Ireland, Britain and the US, where he continued to abuse children.

Smyth died in jail 13 years ago, while serving 12 years for 74 sexual assaults on children.

Brady's disclosure heaps further ignominy on the Vatican, which has had a week of damaging stories about the church's treatment of child sex abuse victims and their allegations.

New incidents are reported on an almost daily basis across Europe, as are official investigations into historic allegations, with each development eroding the church's credibility and moral authority.

Not even the pope has escaped the taint of scandal. Last weekend, a Vatican spokesman took the unprecedented step of denying that Benedict was complicit in the cover-up of a sex scandal while he was archbishop of Munich.

Victim support groups in Ireland, which have repeatedly savaged church and state authorities for their conduct, condemned Brady and called for him to resign. The co-founder of Irish Survivors of Child Abuse, Patrick Walsh, said: "The church was more interested in protecting its reputation than anything else. The cardinal needs to examine his conscience about this. He needsto take stock of his position. In 1975 he was just a priest acting as a secretary and he was not the decision maker. But he knew what was going on."

The Catholic Information Office in Ireland confirmed that Brady had been the recording secretary at one meeting and had interviewed the victims at another. The oath, it said, was to "respect the confidentiality of the information process".

Brady had passed the reports "as instructed, and as a matter of urgency" to Bishop [Francis] McKiernan "for his immediate action".

The cardinal's behaviour will do little to reverse the perception that the church does not take the issue of child sex abuse seriously enough, despite Vatican efforts to show that the problem is not solely confined to its institutions nor is it as widespread as people believe.

A front-page article in today's L'Osservatore Romano argued that sexual abuse of minors was "more common amongst lay and married people than among celibate priests" – a reply to one archbishop's view that celibacy may be one of the causes of paedophilia in the priesthood.

The bishop of Alessandria, Giuseppe Versaldi, who wrote the article, said that Pope Benedict was actively leading the "battle" against paedophilia., despite his image as "an academic who is only interested in writing books."

His remarks echo those of the Vatican official charged with investigating sexual abuse allegations, who suggested that many abuse claims were not paedophilia.Monsignor Charles Scicluna, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said of the 3,000 cases referred to his office during a nine-year period, only a tenth were paedophilia "in the truest sense".

Interviewed for the Italian newspaper, Avvenire, he said: "About 60% of the cases chiefly involved sexual attraction towards adolescents of the same sex, another 30% involved heterosexual relations, the remaining 10% were paedophilia in the truest sense of the term, based on sexual attraction towards pre-pubescent children. The cases of priests accused of paedophilia in the true sense have been about 300 in nine years."

The 300 cases were "still too many", but he urged people to recognise that the phenomenon was not as widespread as they believed.

Scicluna said a full trial, "penal or administrative", had occurred in 20% of these cases. Old age often prevented the accused from standing trial, or administrative and disciplinary provisions such as a ban on hearing confession acted as a substitute. Half of the trials ended in dismissal, while the remaining half saw the accused requesting dispensation from the priesthood.

Scicluna insisted that the Vatican had never encouraged a cover-up of child sex abuse, while also admitting that, "perhaps out of a misdirected desire to protect the good name of the institution some bishops were, in practice, too indulgent towards this sad phenomenon".

He added: "I say in practice because, in principle, the condemnation of this kind of crime has always been firm and unequivocal."

Bad week for the Vatican

• George Ratzinger, brother of Pope Benedict XVI, admits slapping choristers and ignoring physical abuse at an elementary school, but denies knowing about sexual abuse allegations at the same school.

• Catholic hierarchy in the Netherlands pledge an independent, external inquiry into abuse at several church-run institutions.

• Austrian priest quits, admitting he abused or molested up to 20 children.

• Archbishop of Vienna says priestly celibacy may be the cause of paedophilia.

• The pope is "distraught" over the sex abuse scandal in Germany. The country's most senior Catholic apologises to victims and church authorities promise to hold an investigation.

• Swiss Catholic church launches inquiry into 60 claims of sex abuse.

• Papal spokesman denounces attempts to implicate the pope in a sex abuse cover-up and rejects accusations of a culture of secrecy.

• An Italian academic compares the secrecy over sex abuse to omerta – the Mafia code of silence – and says more involvement of women in the church might have prevented the scale of the cover-up.

• An Irish bookmaker slashes the odds, from 12 to 1 to 3 to 1, of a papal resignation amid the continuing controversy and a "cascade of bets".

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The Independent - UK March 16, 2010

I will only resign if Pope asks me, says defiant Irish cardinal

Storm over revelations that cleric helped to silence victims of paedophile priest

By David McKittrick, Ireland Correspondent

The head of the Catholic church in Ireland yesterday rejected growing pressure to resign over his involvement in the country's latest clerical child abuse scandal, insisting that he would stand down only on the Pope's orders.

The position of Cardinal Sean Brady is in doubt following revelations that he was party to the imposition of an oath of silence on two young people complaining of abuse by one of Ireland's most notorious paedophile priests. After two meetings in 1975 the priest, Father Brendan Smyth, went on to abuse many other young people over the following two decades before being jailed.

Yesterday Cardinal Brady apologised to the victims of abuse, saying that with hindsight he should have done more. But when reminded of demands for his resignation, he said: "I've heard those calls. I've said I don't think it was a resigning matter. I've also heard other calls, many other calls, to stay and continue the work of addressing this most difficult problem." And, speaking to the BBC, he insisted that he would "only resign if asked by the Holy Father".

Cardinal Brady's part in gathering evidence against Smyth emerged after he was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by one of Smyth's victims. The latest disclosures follow a stream of official reports which have exposed a network of clerical misbehaviour, followed by high-level cover-ups within the church, which have brought much public wrath on the clergy.

Several bishops have resigned, mostly reluctantly and with bad grace, as senior church figures promised that no stone would be left unturned in dealing with the abuse issue.

The irony is that Cardinal Brady was among those vowing that a new era of openness and transparency would replace the traditional secrecy. This new development is seen as the emergence of a skeleton from his own cupboard.

As head of the Irish church he has been generally low-key and self-effacing, and in fact his declared determination to clean up the clerical abuse mess has been a rare example of energy on his part. Since the story broke about his own involvement, however, his tone has switched from the crusading to the defensive.

He said in a statement that when he was a priest he attended two meetings as a part-time secretary to a bishop, acting as a recording secretary.

He added: "At those meetings the complainants signed undertakings, on oath, to respect the confidentiality of the information-gathering process." He said he had passed these on urgently to the bishop, and in doing so had fulfilled his duties.

The Cardinal said he believed the victims' stories. He added in interviews: "Yes, I knew that these were crimes, but I did not feel that it was my responsibility to denounce the actions of Brendan Smyth to the police.

"Now I know with hindsight that I should have done more, but I thought at the time I was doing what I was required to do. There was a culture of silence about this, a culture of secrecy; that's the way society dealt with it."

It has been pointed out that last December he declared: "If I found myself in a situation where I was aware that my failure to act had allowed or meant that other children were abused, well then, I think I would resign."

The Cardinal did not mention that he has been discreetly fending off the civil court case centring on his involvement in the Fr Smyth affair for many years.

Calls for his resignation were led by a number of victims of clerical abuse. One of these, Andrew Madden, said the abuse of children was widespread, adding: "I believe every diocese in the country will have allegations which were mishandled. It's only a case of when people are found out."

An American woman who was decades ago abused by Fr Smyth yesterday accused Cardinal Brady of "having blood on his hands". Helen McGonagle, who is a lawyer handling abuse cases, said of the Cardinal: "He's coming to this issue with unclean hands. Swearing victims to an oath of secrecy ... while others can be harmed - that cannot be tolerated."

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BBC News - March 17, 2010

Cardinal Sean Brady ashamed of abuse 'failings'

The head of Ireland's Catholics has apologised for his role in mishandling the case of a serial child abuser.

As a priest in 1975 Cardinal Sean Brady was at meetings where children signed vows of silence over complaints against paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth.

He said he wanted to apologise to "all those who feel I have let them down".

Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI has announced that on Friday he will sign his long awaited pastoral letter dealing with paedophilia in Ireland.

He said in recent months the church in Ireland had been "rocked by the crisis of abuse of minors" and hoped his letter would "help repentance, healing and renewal".


On Tuesday, the Catholic Church in Ireland released more details about why Cardinal Brady asked two victims, aged 10 and 14, to sign secrecy agreements.

The church said the boys were asked to sign oaths "to avoid potential collusion" in evidence-gathering for an internal church inquiry.

It added this would ensure that the complaints could "withstand challenge."

The church statement did not explain why either Cardinal Brady or his superiors at the time did not share their information with the police. Fr Smyth went onto abuse more children in the following years.

Delivering his St Patrick's Day mass on Wednesday, Cardinal Brady said: "This week a painful episode from my own past has come before me.

"I have listened to reaction from people to my role in events 35 years ago.

"I want to say to anyone who has been hurt by any failure on my part that I apologise to you with all my heart.

"I also apologise to all those who feel I have let them down.

"Looking back I am ashamed that I have not always upheld the values that I profess and believe in."

Cardinal Brady added that the church "must humbly continue to deal with the enormity of the hurt caused by abuse of children by some clergy and the hopelessly inadequate response to that abuse in the past".

Fr Smyth was eventually convicted of dozens of offences against children.

But despite allegations being previously investigated by church officials, including Cardinal Brady it was almost 20 years before he was brought to justice.

Northern Ireland's deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness has said Cardinal Brady "should consider his position".

He questioned how many other children were asked to stay silent.

However, NI Secretary of State Shaun Woodward said people should not "rush to judgement" on the issue.

Critics of the cardinal have accused him of colluding with clerical child sexual abuse and pressuring victims to remain silent.

The Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) said Cardinal Brady's position had become untenable.

Hundreds of allegations, many going back decades, of systematic child abuse by Catholic clergy have come to light this year across Europe.

The scandal has surfaced in Germany - Pope Benedict's homeland - Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday the only way to come to terms with it was to find out everything that has happened.

Earlier, scandals have rocked the Catholic Church in the United States, Canada, Australia and Mexico.

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