Page last updated at 11:33 GMT, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Church 'clarifies' Cardinal Brady's role in abuse case

Cardinal Sean Brady
Cardinal Sean Brady said he was following bishops' orders

The Catholic Church in Ireland has released more details about why Cardinal Sean Brady asked child abuse victims to sign secrecy agreements.

When he was a priest in 1975 the cardinal was at meetings where children signed vows of silence over complaints against serial abuser Fr Brendan Smyth.

The church said two boys were asked to sign oaths "to avoid potential collusion" in evidence gathering.

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

The church statement does not explain why either Cardinal Brady or his superiors at the time did not share their information with the police.

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

Reports since the weekend suggested the two children in this case were a boy and a girl, but the church has now said it involved two boys.

The church statement said that in late March 1975, the then Fr Sean Brady, who was a teacher, was asked by his bishop, Francis McKiernan, to conduct a canonical (church) inquiry into an allegation of abuse which was made by a boy in Dundalk, County Louth concerning Fr Smyth.

On 29 March 1975, Fr Brady and two other priests interviewed a 14-year-old boy in Dundalk. Fr Brady's role at that meeting was to take notes.

I am advised that the administering of an oath requiring these children not to disclose the abuse to anyone else may also have constituted an offence
Roisin Shortall, Irish Labour party

On 4 April 1975, Fr Brady interviewed a second boy, who was 15, in the Parochial House in Ballyjamesduff, County Cavan. On that occasion Fr Brady conducted the interview by himself and took notes, the statement continued.

The church said that at the end of both interviews, the boys were "asked to confirm by oath the truthfulness of their statements and that they would preserve the confidentiality of the interview process."

The statement said the intention of the confidentiality oath was "to avoid potential collusion in the gathering of the inquiry's evidence" and to ensure that the process was "robust enough to withstand challenge by the perpetrator, Fr Brendan Smyth".

The statement said that a week later Fr Brady passed his findings to Bishop McKiernan and in turn the bishop reported the findings to the local head of Fr Smyth's religious order, the Norbertines.

Responsibility

The bishop withdrew Smyth's right to practise as a priest and advised psychiatric intervention.

The church said at that stage "the specific responsibility for the supervision of Smyth's activities" fell to his superiors in the Norbertines.

They conspicuously failed to supervise Smyth who went onto to abuse more children.

The church statement echoes comments made by Cardinal Brady.

He said he believed the victims, and in his limited role, did all he could to make sure Fr Smyth was stopped from working as a priest.

He said it was not fair to judge him by the child protection standards of today.

'Untenable'

He added that as a relatively junior cleric it was not his responsibility to report Smyth to the police and that he passed all relevant information to his superiors.

However, The Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) said his position had become untenable.

"Cardinal Brady is personally implicated in collusion with clerical child sexual abuse," RCNI director Fiona Neary said.

"In recent public statements regarding clerical child abuse he did not make public his role in pressuring and bullying victims to remain silent. He did not make public his own failures to disclosure a known abuser to civil authorities."

"Sexual abuse that could have been prevented was not, and Brendan Smyth continued to abuse children."

The opposition Irish Labour party has added to the pressure on Cardinal Brady calling for the police to investigate his role.

The party's spokeswoman on social and family affairs, Roisin Shortall, said the cardinal was "hopelessly compromised by what had emerged".

"I believe that there should be a Garda (Irish police) investigation to determine whether or not the failure to report Fr Smyth's crimes to the civil authorities was, itself, a criminal offence," she said.

"I am advised that the administering of an oath requiring these children not to disclose the abuse to anyone else may also have constituted an offence."



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