Cardinal Sean Brady said he was following bishops’ orders
The head of Ireland’s Catholic Church must examine his conscience over his dealings with a paedophile priest, an Irish cabinet minister has said.
When Cardinal Sean Brady was a priest in 1975 he was at meetings where children signed vows of silence over complaints against Fr Brendan Smyth.
Green Party leader John Gormley said it was “a case of evil triumphing while a good man stood back from a situation”.
The environment minister said it was “a deeply regrettable situation”.
“I suppose it is a matter for the Church authorities themselves and Cardinal Brady and his own conscience. He will have to deal with that,” he said.
Mr Gormley said it was very clear none of those involved in the inquiry had reported matters to police and an “evil character” like Smyth was able to continue his abuse for many years.
Smyth was at the centre of one of the first paedophile priest scandals to rock the Catholic Church in Ireland.
The Northern Ireland-born cleric was eventually convicted of dozens of offences against children over a 40-year period.
But despite allegations being previously investigated by church officials, including the current Irish primate, Sean Brady, as far back as 1975, it was almost 20 years before he was jailed.
On Tuesday, the Catholic Church in Ireland released more details about why Cardinal Brady asked the two victims, aged 10 and 14, to sign secrecy agreements.
The church said two boys were asked to sign oaths “to avoid potential collusion” in evidence-gathering.
It added this would ensure that the complaints could “withstand challenge.”
The church statement does not explain why either Cardinal Brady or his superiors at the time did not share their information with the police.
I am advised that the administering of an oath requiring these children not to disclose the abuse to anyone else may also have constituted an offence
Roisin Shortall, Irish Labour party
Critics of the cardinal have accused him of colluding with clerical child sexual abuse and pressuring victims to remain silent.
The Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) said Cardinal Brady’s position had become untenable.
“Cardinal Brady is personally implicated in collusion with clerical child sexual abuse,” RCNI director Fiona Neary said.
“In recent public statements regarding clerical child abuse he did not make public his role in pressuring and bullying victims to remain silent. He did not make public his own failures to disclosure a known abuser to civil authorities.”
“Sexual abuse that could have been prevented was not, and Brendan Smyth continued to abuse children.”
The opposition Irish Labour party added to the pressure on Cardinal Brady by calling for the police to investigate his role.
The party’s spokeswoman on social and family affairs, Roisin Shortall, said the cardinal was “hopelessly compromised by what had emerged”.
“I believe that there should be a Garda (Irish police) investigation to determine whether or not the failure to report Fr Smyth’s crimes to the civil authorities was, itself, a criminal offence,” she said.
“I am advised that the administering of an oath requiring these children not to disclose the abuse to anyone else may also have constituted an offence.”