Cardinal should have resigned long ago

There has been no surprise at the announcement that Cardinal Seán Brady has offered his resignation to Pope Francis. This was obligatory once he reached his 75th birthday yesterday. There are unlikely to be many regrets, because he should have resigned some years ago.

This week, the Economic and Social Research Institute revealed the profound long-term effects that sexual abuse has on children — leading to psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Fr Brendan Smyth was one of the most notorious serial abusers in this country. The political repercussions from the failure to tackle his abuse led to the fall of Albert Reynolds’ government in 1994. But the failures of that government were comparatively insignificant in comparison with the contemptible cover-up that was facilitated within some of the highest circles of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

As early as 1975, the future cardinal was informed about Fr Smyth’s abuse. Brendan Boland, one of the victims, gave Dr Brady the sordid details as well as the names of other boy victims. Dr Brady interviewed one of those boys, and he then swore that boy and young Boland to secrecy.

At the time, Dr Brady was a 36-year-old canon lawyer and a teacher at St Patrick’s College in Cavan, as well as part-time secretary to Francis McKiernan, the Bishop of Kilmore. Dr Brady stated that he passed on the details of Smyth’s activities to the bishop, but nothing really happened. Having sworn to two boys to secrecy, he effectively did nothing to stop Smyth’s predatory behaviour. By then, Smyth had been engaging in some of the worst forms of sexual abuse with both boys and girls for over 20 years. Because of the inaction of the Church authorities, Smyth was allowed to prey on young children for another 19 years before he was jailed in Belfast in 1994.

Allowing Dr Brady to “retire naturally” would just be part of the cover-up, Mr Boland contends. The real issue is that Dr Brady should have resigned long ago in his own interest, in the interest of the Catholic Church, and in the interest of society as a whole.

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