The men and (few) women who shape Irish Catholicism
Who holds power and influence in the Catholic Church in Ireland today?
Cardinal Seán Brady
Archbishop of Armagh since 1996, the Primate of All-Ireland and titular head of the Catholic Church in Ireland. By rank he is the senior of Ireland’s four Catholic archbishops, including Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary, Archbishop of Cashel Dermot Clifford and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.
Cardinal Brady chairs meetings of the Irish Episcopal Conference but, as each bishop is answerable only to Rome, his authority is entirely moral. A humble, well-liked man, both by fellow bishops and throughout the Irish church, he is believed wounded beyond repair following revelations of his handling of a 1975 inquiry into the abuse of six children by Fr Brendan Smyth. He neither informed the parents or the police and Smyth abused for a further 18 years. In what he did, the then Fr Brady complied fully with canon law requirements. He will be 73 in August and believed to be approaching the end of his tenure as primate.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin since 2004, in which time he has achieved a moral stature unequalled by any other senior Catholic prelate in Ireland. None too popular with either his priests or his fellow bishops, he adopted a policy of openness and transparency to archdiocesan affairs from the beginning. But it has been his handling of the abuse issue and his consistent compassion for victims that has earned him most respect. He has succeeded in retaining the respect and trust of victims, a rare achievement for a senior Catholic prelate. Adroit and canny politically, whether dealing with secular or ecclesiastical affairs, he is 67.
Bishop Noel Treanor
Bishop of Down and Connor since 2008. He served as secretary general of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of the European Community from 1993 until his appointment to Down and Connor. He spent all but five years of his priestly ministry abroad since ordination in 1976, most of it in Brussels where he had been working with the bishops’ conference since 1989. Tipped as a future Archbishop of Armagh, he is 61 this year.
Bishop Michael Smith
The Bishop of Meath runs one of the tightest ships of all in the 26 Catholic dioceses on the island. Unequivocally orthodox, he is an adept defender of even the most controversial of church teachings, whatever the forum, though rarely in a confrontational manner. He is 72.
Msgr Eamon Martin
Diocesan administrator in Derry diocese following the resignation of Bishop Séamus Hegarty last November, for health reasons. Ordained in 1987, Msgr Martin was secretary to the Irish Bishops Conference from 2008 to 2010 before appointment as vicar general in Derry. He joined the Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) last year and was notably strong when the board published its highly critical review of child protection in Derry diocese last November.
Fr Tim Bartlett
A priest of Down and Connor diocese and general assistant to Cardinal Brady. An influential behind-the-scenes figure, it was he who headhunted Ian Elliott, then with the DHSS in Northern Ireland where he drew up the legislation in that jurisdiction on child protection. Mr Elliott become chief executive of the NBSC in 2007. In May 2009, following publication of the Ryan report, Fr Bartlett got into hot water with the Conference of Religious of Ireland (Cori) when he said the 18 religious congregations concerned should pay more than the €128 million capped by their 2002 indemnity agreement with the State.
Fr Kevin Doran
Ordained in 1977, he had been chaplain at UCD for seven years. He was parish priest in Glendalough before taking up his position as secretary general of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress. He served on the ethics committee of Dublin’s Mater hospital and has been involved in preparing men for both the diaconate and the priesthood. For three years he was co-ordinator of the European Vocations Service. He also contributes a column to the Alive paper.
Fr Michael Drumm
Executive chairman of the Catholic Schools Partnership, launched in January 2010. He has become something of a chief advocate for the Catholic position in the debate over plans to increase plurality of boards of management at primary school level. Brother of Dr Brendan Drumm, formerly of the HSE, he has insisted that the church would most likely divest itself of control of 10 per cent of schools. Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said the figure should be closer to 50 per cent.
Msgr Hugh Connolly
He has been president of the national seminary at St Patrick’s College Maynooth since 2007 and Msgr Ciarán O’Carroll has been rector of the Irish College in Rome since last September where some Irish seminarians are prepared for the priesthood also.
Archbishop Charles Brown
Papal nuncio to Ireland. He is a New Yorker, succeeding Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza who was called back to Rome for consultations following the Taoiseach’s Dáil address last July criticising the Vatican. Archbishop Brown worked alongside Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) from 1994 until 2005 when the cardinal was elected Pope. Archbishop Brown continued to work at the CDF until his appointment to Ireland. He is 53 this year.