Response to Smyth revelations

 

Madam, – I am a very ordinary member of the Catholic church and like many others I am at the end of my patience with those who administer my church.

It is time for all of us who care to object in a very visible way to the way our hierarchy is dealing with the scandals that are an everyday occurrence. I suggest that all concerned Catholics should attend their local church on an agreed evening all across the country to signify their despair at the response to the sex abuse scandals. This attendance should be without the presence of any clergy other than those members of the clergy who are happy to have their attendance seen as a willing participant in the protest. Perhaps this could be the first step in the return of the church to the people that it is intended to serve and a public statement of support for the victims of abuse. – Yours, etc,

SEAMUS HAYES,

Kilconnell,

Fethard, Co Tipperary.

Madam, – Cardinal Brady is correct when he claims that, as Father Brady in the mid 1970s, he was implementing (to the letter) church protocol regarding the questioning and recording of claims of clerical paedophilia against Brendan Smyth.

The procedure to be followed was precisely outlined in the 1962 secret directive from the Vatican (Crimen Sollicitationis). It imposed “pontifical” secrecy under pain of excommunication on himself and the two juveniles whose claims he recorded. The present Pope, as Cardinal Ratzinger and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, stated that this oath of secrecy should remain in force until claimants reached their 28th birthday (De Delictis Gravioribus, 2001).

Canon 1321 required that guilt be “imputable”: ie, it must be established with moral certainty that the priest in question freely committed the offence(s). However, church authorities tended to view paedophilia as a fixation over which he had no control – and therefore could not be morally guilty. In which case, only light penalties were applied.

These priests were placed on a “merry-go-round” – moved from place to place as complaints arose and the number of victims increased. The relevant church authorities were not warned in advance. In this respect, the Irish church authorities failed to carry out the directives of Rome. In the 1970s, that dereliction of duty lay not with Fr Brady, but with his bishop, and Abbot Kevin Smith, Smyth’s superior. – Yours, etc,

JOSEPH SHEEHY,

Merville Garden Village,

Newtownabbey,

Co Antrim.

Madam, – As a 35-year-old, highly educated, teaching priest, the then father Seán Brady, acting on instructions from his religious superior, imposed a vow of silence on two innocent children aged 10 and 14.

Think about that! Now visualise the scene. Most likely, a large forbidding room. Two terrified children, who had been brutalised by a maniacal monster, in religious garb, are solemnly instructed by, in their eyes a holy priest, to keep secret what they know of what happened to them.

This is the stuff of nightmares and hardly believable, yet it is a fact, it did happen – the cardinal himself said so!

Is there a need to prolong the agony any longer? Canon law and Sharia law might serve a useful purpose in the sphere of religious practices, but the primacy of state law cannot be allowed to fall into disrepute. The State must act immediately to repair the damage. – Yours, etc,

NIALL GINTY,

The Demesne,

Killester, Dublin 5.

Madam, – It seems appropriate at this time that we should reflect on the words of the great Catholic moralist, Lord Acton, who in 1887 wrote, “I cannot accept that we can judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong” and then went on to state that in his opinion “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” His comments were prompted by the declaration of Papal Infallibility by Pope Pius IX in 1870 and ring as true today as they did in the 19th century. – Yours, etc,

LOUIS O’FLAHERTY,

Lorcan Drive,

Santry, Dublin 9.

A chara, – “It’s not fair to judge actions of 35 years ago by the standards we are following today,” remarked Cardinal Brady (Home News, March 15th), a surprising defence from a senior member of an organisation which judges and condemns people based on standards set down 2000 years ago. – Yours, etc,

DECLAN Mc CORMAC,

Mc Dowell Avenue,

Kilmainham,

Dublin 8.

Madam, – The Nuremberg defence offered by Seán Brady regarding his role in the canonical inquiry into Brendan Smyth and the support or silence of his colleagues offer us an insight into what constitutes “faith” for senior Catholic personnel. It is not about obedience to conscience or obedience to the word of Jesus Christ but obedience to the more senior officers and the edicts of Rome. How could authentic Christianity result in the conscience being suppressed and hardened to this degree and the commands of Christ expressed in scripture being completely ignored? Peter the Apostle instructed Christians to “submit for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men”. In that context he added: “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone” (Peter 2v13 16).

Survivors of abuse and other Roman Catholics looking for justice will continue to be disappointed by the response of their church’s leadership to this matter. If Rome were to be honest it would admit that the bishops acted under the influence of instructions designed to suppress the truth and limit the damage to the organisation’s reputation. But no such admission will be forthcoming.

These dreadful events should prompt Roman Catholics to ask serious questions about the nature of genuine Christian faith. What does the blind and perverse loyalty displayed by senior church figures have to do with Christ? What does the moral inertia, cowardice and hypocrisy which we are seeing have to do with Christ? We need to be careful who we listen to. Jesus warned, “a student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will become like his teacher” (Luke 6v40). – Yours, etc,

IAN KENNEDY,

Monvoy Valley,

Tramore, Co Waterford.

Madam, – Cardinal Seán Brady denies any wrong-doing in the sex abuse case of Brendan Smyth because he was not “the designated person responsible for contacting the statutory bodies”. We all have “a duty of care” in organisations and this is not contingent on seniority. How much more is that obligation to children? And in a church? Hiding behind a legal technicality does not sit well for a man of the cloth, and adds to the public’s lack of faith in the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland. Out of respect for the victims it would be more honourable for Brady to resign.

He would gain some vestige of moral credibility and help turn the tide of disillusionment with the clergy. – Yours, etc,

MARIE PARKER-JENKINS,

Faculty of Education and Health Sciences,

University of Limerick.

Madam, – It was with ambiguous emotion I watched the recent news report of RTÉ’s Eimear Lowe interviewing Cardinal Seán Brady on his stance regarding resignation issues. While, even as a practising Catholic, I believe there are questions to be addressed by Cardinal Brady, the interview exposed the cardinal to an aggressive line of questioning which visibly upset him and the vulnerability caused by this upset appeared to be capitalised on by the interviewer to pursue the issue.

While there is no denying Cardinal Daly and his church have serious questions to answer, the human aspect of the circumstances needs to be kept in perspective. One needs to question who is getting satisfaction from such witch-hunting blood sport. How much “justice” do victim groups need in this saga, surely a case of “be careful what you wish for”. One wonders how long they will allow themselves to be manipulated by other agendas. Perhaps it is time for the silent majority to speak out and reclaim the zeitgeist back to reflect the entire country and not simply be determined by influencers from the Pale? – Yours, etc,

GERRY FORREST,

Pound Street,

Ballaghaderreen,

Co Roscommon.

Madam, – If in 1975 a 36-year-old, bright and capable priest went out on a limb and took a moral stand to ensure civil justice for a victim of abuse,at the expense of the reputation of his church, one thing is certain – his moral bravery would ensure he would never become a cardinal. Bullying young victims of abuse to sworn secrecy must be understood in the context of the absolute loyalty of the clergy to the institutional church, not to its flock. Seán Brady states that he will only resign if the Pope asks him to do so – indicating that he couldn’t care less what the men and women of this island think of his actions. Reassuring isn’t it? – Yours, etc,

Dr JOHN GIBBONS,

Breaffy Road,

Castlebar,

Co Mayo.