Martin wants commission set up into Smyth cases

Sun, May 6, 2012, 01:00

An independent commission of investigation ought to be set up to inquire into the abuse of children by Fr Brendan Smyth, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said. This was necessary as “the Brendan Smyth story is of such a dimension,” he said earlier today.

Where Cardinal Brady was concerned he said “I’ve never called for anybody’s resignation, I’ve never done that. Everybody has to make their own decisions.”

Asked about the censuring of Irish priests by the Vatican he believed the best way to deal with such cases was to address them first in Ireland. “I think the Theological Commission of the Irish bishops has not been carrying out its function as in other countries where this dialogue would take place as a first stage and then be resolved without it necessarily being dealt with from Rome directly,” he said. He “would have preferred that these matters be dealt with in a dialogue…in a robust dialogue within the Irish church.”

Archbishop Martin was speaking after Mass at the St Francis Xavier Church on Dublin’s Gardiner St. It also marked the launch of the `Commemorative Eucharistic Congress Prayer' book , edited by Fr Donal Neary SJ, parish priest at Gardiner St.

On the Fr Brendan Smyth case he said “I know it’s not fashionable today to talk about Commissions but I do really believe that an independent Commission of investigation into the activities of Brendan Smyth, as to how he was allowed to abuse for so many years,” should be set up.

It would look “north and south” at “ church and state.” He felt this would be in the public interest so that the full story would come “and not the bits and pieces which either an investigative journalist or diocesan investigation,” would bring out.

Where Cardinal Brady was concerned he said “I don’t know what the relationship between him and the bishop was. I don’t know what the bishop did (or) what he knew the bishop did. Looking back at the Dublin inquiry I’ve seen that these are complex questions and I wouldn’t like to judge a person on things that I don’t know…’d be unfair of me to make that judgement.”

As regards Fr Smyth being allowed to hear confession again in Kilmore diocese from 1984 onwards he said “I find it very hard to justify, but I believe that the only way we’ll really get to understand that is if we have one global independent investigation…”

He said “that man (Fr Brendan Smyth) did so much harm to people that I believe there is a public interest in this case to carry out an investigation of that kind…In believe that until all of this story in its entirely comes out we are not doing justice to those who were abused and we’re not really getting at the truth…”

He felt it only fair to point out that in a review by the Church's National Board for Safeguarding Children last year Kilmore diocese was commended for the quality of the child protection services there.

He would be unable to attend the assembly in Dublin tomorrow called by the Association of Irish Priests as his programme for the day had been planned well in advance. It was up to each bishop individually whether to attend, he said.

But there was, he felt, “a sense in which, I think at least at this stage, people might be happier to have the freedom to say what they want to say.”

Referring to division in the Irish church he said “it’s all over the place.”

Earlier, in his homily at the Mass he spoke of “unhealthy divisions within the Church. The Church is called to be a sign of unity, yet this is not the witness that is being given of the Church in today’s Ireland.” The truth, he said, “has no need for negative polemics. Negative polemics do not build-up but divide. In debate within the Church the truth must always be spoken in love.”

He was also “saddened by some comments made in the public arena about Pope Benedict, as if all he did as Pope was somehow suppressing the truth. There is no mention of the fact that Pope Benedict has in these few years of his ministry as Pope written two extraordinary and striking books on Jesus Christ,…”

Earlier in his homily he said “nothing can be farther from the desire of God’s care than to allow those who are weakest to be damaged at the most delicate moment of their lives.” The Church must relentlessly address into the future the lessons from the scandal of the abuse of children within the Church of Jesus Christ. Part of learning what renewal in the Church means is learning genuinely how to repent,” he said.