Cardinal Brady part of process which ‘silenced’ abuse victim

Inquiry critical of 1975 canon law investigation into the Brendan Smyth case

A 14-year-old boy who was abused by Norbertine priest Fr Brendan Smyth was “effectively silenced” as a result of a Catholic Church investigation in which the former Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady was involved, the HIA inquiry reported.

The Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry report refers to the case of Brendan Boland from Dundalk in Co Louth who in the mid 1970s was sexually abused by Smyth. The then Bishop of Kilmore Francis McKiernan instigated a canon law investigation of his claims.

One of three priests who interviewed Brendan Boland in 1975 was the then Fr John Brady (now Cardinal Brady), later to be appointed Archbishop of Armagh and Catholic primate of Ireland.

Sworn to secrecy

The report details how Mr Boland as a boy was not allowed to have his parents present in the interview with him and how he was sworn to secrecy about his allegations against Smyth.


Cardinal Brady told the inquiry that an oath of confidentiality was administered to bring “solemnity” and formality to proceedings and to “ensure the evidence was clear and strong”.

“This may well be so but it also ensured that this child was effectively silenced at the time, rendering him unable to discuss the events with his parents,” Sir Anthony Hart’s inquiry reported.

“As a result he could not receive, and his parents were prevented from giving him, the support that he could have received from them to enable him to try to cope with the abuse he had suffered and the response he received to his disclosure of it.”

The inquiry noted how Cardinal Brady said that some of the questioning of the boy “now made him cringe in horror”.

It also referred to a second boy being interviewed in secrecy about Smyth.

Cardinal Brady told the inquiry that oaths of secrecy were required so that witnesses could not be suborned and the effect of their testimony weakened. The inquiry said: “Whilst we accept that may have been part of the reason, we are in no doubt that the predominant reason for those oaths was to ensure that the good name of the Catholic Church was protected by keeping the matters discussed secret.”

The inquiry also noted that in his evidence Cardinal Brady said the interviews should never have been conducted in such fashion, and that he added: “There was a shroud of secrecy and confidentiality with a view to . . . not destroying the good name of the church”.

Systemic failings

The inquiry reported: “Although we are critical of the manner in which they were conducted, we do not consider that the conduct of the two interviews could be said to be relevant to the abuse committed by Fr Smyth, and therefore we do not consider it appropriate to make findings of systemic failings in relation to the conduct of these two interviews.”

However, it said the use to which the information was put amounted to systemic failings. It found that the response of Bishop McKiernan to the allegations against Smyth were “wholly inadequate”.

The inquiry heard that Smyth had admitted that during the course of his religious life from the late 1940s to the early 1990s he might have sexually abused more than 200 children.

The inquiry report was critical of his Norbertine Order, the diocese of Kilmore, the diocese of Down and Connor, the Sisters of Nazareth and the De La Salle order for failing to adequately deal with Smyth.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times