Brady meets clerical abuse survivors


Cardinal Sean Brady has expressed support for the concept of a national inquiry into clerical child sex abuse, according to survivors of clerical abuse and their representatives who met him in Armagh City today.

The victims and the representatives variously said that the meetings were useful, frank, positive and at times "emotional" and "uncomfortable". Various views were expressed during and after the meetings at the Catholic primate's residence beside St Patrick's Cathedral with some maintaining he should resign and others saying he is now a "lame duck Cardinal".

Cardinal Brady requested the meetings following from the continuing disclosures about clerical abuse, the recent pastoral letter about the abuse from Pope Benedict XVI and from the criticism of the primate's failure to notify the Gardai of allegations of sex abuse against two children made to him when he was a priest in 1975.

From 9.30am through to 4pm Cardinal Brady held three separate meetings: first with John Kelly, Patrick Walsh and Marie Seo of Irish Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA); then with Marie Collins - who as a young girl was sexually abused by a priest in Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Dublin in 1960 - and her husband Raymond; and finally in the afternoon with Michael O'Brien of Right to Peace and Christopher Heaphy of Right of Place.

John Kelly, who was sexually abused between 1965 and 1967 while at Daingean reformatory in Co Offaly run by the Oblate missionary order, said Cardinal Brady was disposed to the idea of an inquiry that would address the allegations of sex abuse in all Catholic dioceses throughout the island of Ireland.

"The Cardinal accepted the need for a national inquiry, North and South," said Mr Kelly.

Patrick Walsh, who from the age of 2 in 1955 spent 8 years with the Sisters of Mercy in Rathdrum, Co Wicklow and then six years with the Christian Brothers in Artane in Dublin, said Cardinal Brady was committed to the national inquiry proposal.

Both Mr Walsh and Mr Kelly said they urged Cardinal Brady to make Ian Elliott, who is chief executive of Catholic Church-funded National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC), a "supremo" in addressing the overall extent of Irish clerical child sex abuse, and ensuring proper protections were in place to try to prevent further abuse.

Cardinal Brady, in recently saying that he was reflecting over whether he should resign, queried did "wounded healers", who had made mistakes in their past have a "part in shaping the future?"

Mr Kelly and Mr Walsh said it wasn't a case of wounded healers but of the Catholic primate now being a "lame duck Cardinal" and that they made this point to Cardinal Brady. Mr Kelly said that Cardinal Brady appeared "a little emotional and sad" when this issue area. "We felt uneasy asking the question," said Mr Kelly.

The three members of Irish SOCA said they saw considerable merit in Pope Benedict's pastoral letter and apology to the victims of clerical abuse. "It would be churlish of us not to say there were positive things in the Pope's letter. After all it took Galileo 300 years to get an apology from the Pope. We got ours in our lifetime and that is significant," said Mr Kelly.

Ms Seo, who is secretary to SOCA, said the Catholic Church finally appeared to be facing up to the enormity of the crisis. "I think they finally get it," she said, then adding by way of qualification, "I hope they finally get it."

Marie Collins said that she made it clear to Cardinal Brady her conviction that he should resign, and her belief that while she was "not looking for heads on plates" that more bishops should also resign. "I see Cardinal Brady as a damaged leader rather than a wounded healer. Wounded healer is an unfortunate phrase because if he is wounded the wounds were self-inflicted," she added.

Ms Collins also contradicted what she felt was a suggestion in the Pope's letter that a lack of rigour following from Vatican II could partly account for the priestly abuse. "I was abused before Vatican II," she said.

Michael O'Brien of the Right to Peace victims' group said that after he demanded that there be proper financial reparation for survivors of abuse Cardinal Brady said the Irish Church did not have such funds. "I said 'don't tell me that, because the Catholic Church is the richest organisation in the world'."

Cardinal Brady did not speak to the media after the meetings. Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore, Ms Lucy McCaffrey who is facilitating the contact between survivors of abuse and the Irish Bishops' Conference, and Father Timothy Bartlett, assistant to Cardinal Brady, also attended the meetings.