Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Cardinal Seán Brady should “reflect” on the matter, while the chief executive of the leading children’s charity called for the cardinal to resign.
Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay made his comments in a radio interview in which he revealed that he had been abused as a child by a member of a religious order.
Amnesty International has called on the PSNI to investigate whether Cardinal Brady and other priests, who were aware of the revelations, had committed an offence under section 5 of the Criminal Law (NI) Act 1967.
Director of the Aislinn Centre, abuse victim Christine Buckley, called on the cardinal to “do the honourable thing” and step aside.
“We do not buy Cardinal Brady’s lame excuse that he did not know what effect rape would have on children,” she said. “How then, one might ask, did many children who were being raped, both in the diocese and in religious-run institutions, know what was happening to them was wrong? Some of these children were as young as six years old.”
Defending his failure to ensure these children and future victims were protected from Smyth, Cardinal Brady yesterday said: “I accept that I was part of an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society, and the Church. 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.”
In 1975, the then Fr Brady was one of three priests who held a secret church inquiry into allegations of abuse by a 14-year-old altar boy who had been sexually abused by Smyth for two years.
The boy told the inquiry that he knew two other children were being abused, and had strong suspicions about a further three.
He gave the names and addresses of the five children to Fr Brady but he just passed on the information to the Bishop. He sought out one of the children, who confirmed the abuse and did nothing whatsoever about the remaining four.
“As to other children named during the inquiry process, I had no further involvement in the inquiry once I handed over the evidence. I trusted that those with the authority to act in relation to Brendan Smyth would treat the evidence seriously and respond appropriately,” Cardinal Brady said.
Church sources indicated an assistant would be appointed to support Cardinal Brady by the end of the year — at least two years after the request was first made. It is expected the coadjutor bishop will ultimately take over in the Armagh Archdiocese when the Cardinal retires aged 75.
The Taoiseach, Tánaiste, and Alan Shatter, the justice minister, all refused to express opinions on whether Cardinal Brady should step aside.
Mr Kenny said “it was a matter for Cardinal Brady himself to reflect on the outcome of the TV programme” but pointed to government legislation announced last week making it compulsory for people to report abuse allegations to civil authorities.
Archbishop of Cashel and Emly and Apostolic Administrator in the Diocese of Cloyne, Dr Dermot Clifford backed Cardinal Brady.