Ireland's most senior cleric Cardinal Sean Brady said today his role in a 1975 investigation into paedophile Brendan Smyth had been exaggerated.
The Primate faced renewed demands to resign after it emerged a then 14-year-old victim of Smyth's warned him in secret interviews that it was likely the late priest was abusing five other named children.
The Cardinal said his role in the inquiry has been deliberately exaggerated and misrepresented in a BBC documentary aired last night.
"I deeply regret that those with the authority and responsibility to deal appropriately with Brendan Smyth failed to do so, with tragic and painful consequences for those children he so cruelly abused," he said.
Cardinal Brady has the backing of Dermot Clifford, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly and the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Cloyne, who said there is no reason for him to quit.
The Vatican's chief investigator, Monsignor Charles J Scicluna, also insisted that Cardinal Brady has no case to answer and fulfilled his duties by referring information on child abuse to his seniors.
Three years ago, when allegations about Cardinal Brady's role in the canon inquiry into Smyth emerged, he said he would resign if he found his actions or failings had led to another child being abused.
Amid the renewed calls for his resignation, Cardinal Brady, who interviewed two of Smyth's young victims under a special canon oath while a 33-year-old priest, said he regretted that the Church's response in the 1970s was so inadequate.
"I was shocked, appalled and outraged when I first discovered in the mid-1990s that Brendan Smyth had gone on to abuse others," he said.
"With others, I feel betrayed that those who had the authority in the Church to stop Brendan Smyth failed to act on the evidence I gave them. However, I also accept that I was part of an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society, and the Church, which thankfully is now a thing of the past."
New evidence came to light which revealed Cardinal Brady had the names and addresses of children who were suspected of being abused, during the secret canon inquiry.
The Primate's role has been described by the Church as a note-taker, purely administrative, to pass the information on to his superiors. The youngsters' parents were not informed.
Some children were abused by Smyth for years after the probe.
Brendan Boland, who had been abused during the 1970s, gave the secret inquiry a list of other children he believed were victims.
"There was a boy from Belfast, I gave his name and address," said Mr Boland in the documentary.
"A girl from Belfast, I gave her name and address. A girl from Cavan, I gave her name and address. Another boy from Cavan, I gave his name and address. And there was another boy who was his friend."
In a lengthy statement, Cardinal Brady said he did not lead any investigation into Smyth but had been asked by his then superior, the late Bishop Francis McKiernan of Kilmore, to assist senior clerics.
The Cardinal said he did not ask the teenager any questions but later carried out an interview with one of the other named victims to corroborate evidence. He said he had received no training.
He also claimed that, as a priest, he would not be considered responsible for reporting the allegations under today's rules.
"I had absolutely no authority over Brendan Smyth. Even my bishop had limited authority over him. The only people who had authority within the church to stop Brendan Smyth from having contact with children were his Abbot in the Monastery in Kilnacrott and his Religious Superiors in the Norbertine Order."
He said he assumed and trusted the abbot would have dealt decisively with Smyth.
Cardinal Brady added: "I had no such authority to act and even by today's guidance from the State, I was not the person who had the role of bringing the allegations received to the attention of the civil authorities.
"I was also acutely aware that I had no authority in church law in relation to Brendan Smyth or any other aspect of the inquiry process."
Cardinal Brady also addressed his future and comments he made in 2009 when he said he would resign if his actions led to other children suffering abuse.
He said this remark related specifically to the responsibility of management or of clerics in authority.
"I gave this answer in response to a question specifically about someone in a position of 'management', someone who was already a bishop or religious superior with ultimate responsibility for managing a priest against whom an allegation has been made," the Cardinal said.
"In 1975, I was not a bishop. I was not in that role."
The Cardinal said the BBC documentary had been misleading in its reporting of his role in the inquiry, his response to further revelations from victims and whether he would consider resigning.
The programme revealed Mr Boland had witnessed one boy being abused and was told by another that he had been a victim as well.
In 1975, Cardinal Brady was a priest and a teacher in Co Cavan when he was sent to support the investigation into sex abuse claims.
Details of the church inquiry were unearthed previously, but the fact that Cardinal Brady had names and addresses of possible victims only emerged in the latest documentary.
Archbishop Clifford said the cardinal had no reason to step down.
"I don't see any reason why he should resign. He did what he was asked to do as a young priest of 33 years, and he made his report," the archbishop said.
"We are also speaking about a different generation. When asked to do something by your bishop, you did it and the responsibility lay with him."
Late last year Cardinal Brady offered to apologise in person to Mr Boland following an undisclosed out-of-court settlement over the abuse.
Mr Boland has said he first confided in a young priest after two years of abuse. He was then interrogated by two clerics, with the then Fr Brady taking notes, in an Ecclesiastical Court, and had to swear on oath that he would not talk about the interview with anyone but an authorised priest.
The Church has since claimed the oath was designed to protect the child and prevent his evidence being manipulated by Smyth.
The Vatican press office declined to comment and referred the matter to the church in Ireland.
Later, the Cardinal added that he had considered his future but decided the controversy was not a resigning matter.
Looking back, he said he felt he had been operating in a culture of deference and maybe unhelpful silence.
"I knew chapter and verse of what was going on," the Cardinal said,
"I did not have the awareness now that I have of the impact that was having on the children.
"I was teaching boys of that age at that time every day of the week. I believed Brendan Boland and I took on board what he said and I did what I thought was most effective in stopping this terrible abuse by referring it to the man who had the power to curb the movement of Brendan Smyth.
"I trusted that that would take place."