Prelate insists he did his 'duty' in Smyth case
RESIGNATION DEMAND:REJECTING FRESH calls for his resignation yesterday, Primate of All-Ireland Cardinal Seán Brady said he felt he did his “duty” in the manner in which he handled allegations of abuse against convicted paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.
The cardinal told RTÉ’s Morning Irelandhis attendance at meetings where Smyth’s victims were asked to swear an oath of secrecy was at the behest of the then bishop of Kilmore, Dr Francis McKiernan.
The fact that Smyth went on to commit further acts of abuse after these meetings in 1975 was “because others didn’t do their duty”.
Asked if he had done his duty, the cardinal replied: “I felt I did my duty, the duty that was assigned to me by my bishop. It’s not fair to judge actions of 35 years ago by the standards we are following today.”
Pressed as to whether he regretted not having informed the authorities, Dr Brady said he had not stayed silent but had passed on the information to his superior. He also apologised to Smyth’s victims.
“I’m very sorry about that and I would say I apologise to those who were abused by Brendan Smyth after 1975. I am deeply sorry this has happened and I’m committed to doing my utmost now to bring healing and closure and to ensure that such crimes are never, never committed again. And our first concern as a society should always be for survivors of abuse but I would suggest for all survivors of all types of abuse.”
Explaining the circumstances surrounding the meetings in 1975, the cardinal said: “Bishop McKiernan conducted a canonical inquiry to establish firm grounds to remove faculties from Fr Smyth and this consisted of a series of questions and answers under oath before a notary and I was that notary. My role was to take the evidence and consign it to bishop McKiernan. I wrote a report on the meeting, handed it to bishop McKiernan and he acted upon it. I had no decision-making role in the process.”
Cardinal Brady said he was aware of calls for his resignation but stressed he did not believe the issue was a resigning matter. The Cardinal did say, however, that he would act differently if presented with a similar dilemma now.
Cardinal Brady was referred to an interview on RTÉ last December in which he said he would resign if he ever found children had been abused as a result of any failing on his part. “Well, 30 years ago, 35 years ago, I was not a bishop, I was not a manager, I was a full-time secondary teacher and I was there taking evidence,” he said.
“Thirty-five years ago we were in a different world. We had no guidance, we were in uncharted territory. Now we have higher standards, thankfully, and certainly I wouldn’t act in the same way now as I did then. But I repeat that I was not the manager, I was not bishop then and I did act. That’s the most important thing; I did act and acquired the evidence which allowed bishop McKiernan to act decisively.
“Within three weeks he (Dr McKiernan) was able to go to Kilnacrott Abbey with the evidence and say he was withdrawing the diocesan faculties from Fr Smyth, which meant that he was no longer permitted to practice, to minister publicly as a priest, not alone in the diocese of Kilmore but in any diocese. And I felt that was fairly decisive.”
The cardinal said there were growing calls for more discourse on “this most painful, most complex and devastating problem” and resignations would not help this process.
“I add my voice to those calls for more discussion on the part of all of society, and especially on the part of those most closely involved – the members of the medical profession, the legal profession, the media – about how it is handled,” he said.
“We are well aware that it is a crime and should be reported and that we, the church, are not above the law.”
In a separate interview on BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulsterprogramme, Cardinal Brady said he would only resign if asked to do so by Pope Benedict XVI.
“I will only resign if I am asked by the Holy Father.”
The cardinal also rejected the suggestion that he was applying the “just following orders” argument, or the Nazi Nuremberg trials defence.
“I really played my part – the part I had 35 years ago as priest, a recording secretary – to the best of my ability,” he said. “We are now judging the behaviour of 35 years ago by the standards we set today and I don’t think that’s fair. It does not apply to other sectors of society. The standards of today are thankfully much higher. With hindsight I should have done more.”
When it was put to him that he could not have been in any doubt that in 1975 canon law did not have priority over criminal law, the cardinal replied: “Yes, I knew that these were crimes. But I did not feel that it was my responsibility to denounce the actions of Brendan Smyth to the police.”
He added he had received several calls from people and priests for him to continue in office. “I have been very heartened by those calls – calls of support to stay and to continue the work of addressing this most difficult problem,” he said.