Cardinal unfit for job he holds, says Smyth sex abuse victim
VICTIM'S REACTION:THE “PENNY dropped” for Brendan Boland when he was just shy of his 14th birthday at Christmas 1974. The paedophile priest Brendan Smyth had been sexually abusing him for two to three years at that stage.
Smyth had brought him, a Belfast boy and three girls to a Wombles concert in Dublin. Afterwards Smyth shared a room with the two boys, who also featured in this week’s BBC programme. First he abused Mr Boland, then he signalled the other boy to come to his bed.
“I was lying listening to what was going on. And I said to myself, ‘This is not going to happen again, I have got to do something. I don’t like what’s going on here’. That’s when the penny dropped for me.”
Mr Boland spoke to The Irish Times in a hotel in Belfast with his wife Martina by his side. “She’s a rock,” he said.
He is unimpressed with the response so far of Cardinal Seán Brady. “I think at the moment he has no moral authority.”
Mr Boland works in London as an engineer for another man in the news these days, Rupert Murdoch, ensuring that the presses that print the Sun, London Times and other newspapers run sweetly.
This isn’t the only trauma to befall him and his family. His 17-year-old son Stephen was killed in a car crash in 2003 in England. “I had a lot of guilt over Stephen’s death. At that time I had my [compensation] case . . . and I blamed it on that, that this is punishment for me [for] standing up to Seán Brady and going against the church. I felt that it had something to do with that,” he explained.
“People have said to me, that’s a crazy idea. But you have to be in my shoes to understand how I think sometimes.”
Cardinal Brady “is not fit for the job he is in; he should never have taken that job. Surely he should have realised that the information would come back and haunt him some day”, Mr Boland believes
Cardinal Brady has complained about elements of the programme, particularly the suggestion he was an investigator with the three-member canonical inquiry team that interviewed Brendan Boland in 1975 – rather than a notetaker, as the Catholic primate has asserted. “Everything in that programme was fact; we were very very careful in the way we did it . . . in my eyes he was the investigator,” said Mr Boland
Neither does the chain of command defence work with him: that Cardinal Brady fulfilled his duty by passing on the facts to his superiors and Smyth’s Norbertine order and that it was up to the Norbertines to stop Smyth.
Bottom line, as far as Mr Boland is concerned, is that he supplied names and addresses of children who were abused by Smyth to the inquiry team, and it was never passed on to their parents or the Garda or RUC. That resulted in two more boys being abused by Smyth, including the Belfast boy. Worse, Smyth subsequently abused the sister of that boy for seven years and also his four first cousins.
Neither does he accept suggestions that 1975 was a different time when there were no church or civil guidelines for handling such situations. Cardinal Brady should have contacted the parents, he said. “I was only 14 years of age, I knew it was wrong.”
Mr Boland has high praise for one of the three priests on the inquiry team to whom he initially reported the abuse in 1975. When he told the priest, who ran a youth club in Dundalk, he immediately brought him home to his parents and informed them.
“My father actually got sick. He had to go out to the garden and get physically sick.”
The experience is still having a huge impact on his father Frank, now aged 89. He was present in the building when his son was interviewed and sworn to secrecy by the inquiry team, but he was not allowed be with Brendan for that questioning.
“He just took it as ‘Yeah, okay, this is the way’.” He added: “My father is happy that this has come out now but he is also devastated. He’s thinking that he did not do enough. He’s saying to me, ‘you’re saying Seán Brady should have done this and that; well, I should have done this, I should have done that’. He is riddled with guilt.
“I have tried to reassure him. I have said I am not taking you away from your religion. The last thing I would want him is to lose his faith, and he hasn’t lost his faith . . .
“I have lost my faith in the people who preach it, but I still have my belief in God. I know that God is for all good, that there is no way he would punish you for destroying evil.
“But I have no time for priests. I have had such a bad experience with priests that I can’t talk to any of them. I know there are some good ones, but I can’t tell who is good and who is not good.”
He is still angry at the excruciatingly intimate nature of the questioning that he was subjected to – which Cardinal Brady acknowledged was “intrusive” – being asked had he had such experiences before, did “seed” come from his body, did he know what an erection was.
Mr Boland still has a sense of humour. “I did not know what an erection was.” And he laughs at his innocence. “Imagine saying that to some 14-year-old today!”
He said he was “really scared” about getting involved in the documentary.
“But the programme helped me because I was overwhelmed by the support of the Irish people. It is just incredible. It was really comforting. I feel good now.”