'I am a daily Mass-goer and all this hurts like hell'


“THERE IS too much Churchianity in the Catholic Church and not enough Christianity,” said Mary O Vallely outside St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh as Mass-goers left 11.30am Mass yesterday.

There was no sign of Catholic Primate of All Ireland Cardinal Seán Brady at either of the two morning Masses in the cathedral, 9am or 11.30am. The chief celebrant for the later Mass was the cathedral’s administrator, Fr Eugene Sweeney.

A spokesman for the cardinal said he was in the diocese and had celebrated Mass yesterday, although he did not know where.

Fr Sweeney made no reference to the controversy surrounding Cardinal Brady to the hundreds of people in the cathedral, except obliquely during the prayers of the faithful when he prayed for all those who were anxious and hurt at the “legacy” of the clerical child sex abuse scandals.

There were mixed views among the faithful outside the cathedral. Some would not offer any comments apart from criticising the media for covering the issue. Others felt he had failed children who were abused by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth, while others again felt fault lay not with him but with superiors to whom he reported the abuse in 1975.

The most considered comments came from Ms Vallely (61), from Armagh, who today is travelling to Dublin for the day-long meeting of the Association of Catholics Priests. Over a week ago she joined priests, nuns and lay people who protested outside the papal nuncio Msgr Charles Brown’s residency on the Navan Road in Dublin against the Vatican’s silencing of priests such as Fr Brian Darcy.

Her comment about distinguishing between “Churchianity and Christianity”, she explained, was originally made by Belfast-based Capuchin priest Fr Owen O’Sullivan, who has also been officially censored.

She said what was happening in the Catholic Church was heartbreaking and that action must be taken to save and reform it. “I am a daily Mass-goer, I love my church, and all this hurts like hell.” She likes Cardinal Brady but believes he has serious questions to ask himself.

“I do feel the hierarchy even yet don’t quite get the devastation that has been caused by the clerical sex abuse,” she said.

Ms Vallely, who is about to start a theology course, suggested that Cardinal Brady should try to tune into the sensus fidelium – the sense of the faithful – to get an understanding of the mood of the country”.

She said his first focus should be on the survivors, and how they had suffered and were still suffering. “Let him listen to the voice of the survivors and if they say go, then maybe he should go.”

She added that she too felt for all priests.

“They are suffering a lot of hurt and loneliness over all this. I feel sorry for them. They are afraid to say what they want to say, and they don’t have the family and other supports that we have that would help them,” added Ms Vallely.

An elderly lady leaving the cathedral felt that Cardinal Brady should remain as primate. “I don’t think it was his fault. He did what he was asked to do and reported all that information to his bishop. It was the bishop’s fault.” She added: “I like the man; he is a good, humble man.”

Another elderly woman said simply that she felt sorry for Cardinal Brady. “I am sure he is suffering over all this. I pray for him every day.”

Alan Henry, a native of Letterkenny, Co Donegal but living in Armagh for the past 10 years said Cardinal Brady should have said something to the parents and to the police in 1975. “I have nothing against the fellow. In fact I have never even spoken to the man but I think he should offer to stand down.”

A middle-aged man said Cardinal Brady had made a “bad mistake” in how he handled the information that Smyth was abusing boys and girls. “He should have gone to the authorities at the time.” But he too said he felt sorry for the Cardinal. “He should never have accepted the job of primate.”