(This statement was issued following revelations in March 2010 that in 1975, acting in his capacity as a canon lawyer, Cardinal Sean Brady had conducted an investigation of abuse allegations regarding the clerical abuser Brendan Smyth. The allegations had not been reported to the civil authorities at the time, and Smyth had continued his career of abuse for a further 18 years.)
Cardinal Sean Brady’s failure to challenge the culture of church silence surrounding clerical child sexual abuse in the period 1975-1994 is a most serious matter and leaves the Irish Catholic church without a leader in whom survivors especially can have full confidence.
Noting the decision of Bishop Moriarty of Kildare and Leighlin to offer his resignation because he had failed to challenge the culture of cover up in the Archdiocese of Dublin in the period 1975-2004, and noting also Cardinal Brady’s own declaration on December 5th, 2009 that he would resign if he thought that any failure of his to act had caused a child to suffer, we cannot understand why he believes he should not now resign.
The reason that there were no child protection guidelines in the church until survivors themselves eventually instigated criminal proceedings in 1994 was that no Catholic churchman had challenged the culture of silence in preceding decades. It is now clear that the primate of the Irish Catholic Church was himself compromised by that culture. Unquestionably much suffering resulted, suffering which could have been prevented if churchmen like Cardinal Brady had acted differently.
So far under Cardinal Brady’s leadership the Irish Conference of Bishops has failed to acknowledge or address the extreme spiritual suffering that results from clerical child sex abuse. There has even been an attempt to evade blame for the church cover up by arguing that denial was a widespread social problem. This is to deny that it is the church’s special role to provide moral leadership and spiritual care.
We cannot understand why Cardinal Brady believes he can now provide the leadership that is needed to draw a line under all that has happened, and to capture the enthusiasm of all Catholics – survivors especially – for the programme of recovery that is now so greatly needed. We ask him to explain why he thinks he can do so.