THE Catholic Church is unlikely to employ me as a communications advisor, so this pithy pearl of wisdom is on the house — step away from the microphones, Cardinal Sean Brady.
Last making headlines when it was revealed that he had sworn two victims of the serial paedophile, Brendan Smyth, to secrecy during a Church investigation, the Cardinal has been in the news in recent days fronting the Church’s campaign against abortion legislation.
Apparently, Cardinal Brady has reinvented himself as a child advocate. There’s just one caveat. The children have to be unborn before Cardinal Brady will speak on their behalf. Engaged in a media blitz since the heads of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill were published, Cardinal Brady said politicians have an “obligation” and “solemn duty” to oppose the “menacing” legislation.
Victims of Smyth (who was one of the biggest menaces to children in this country), were presumably dumbfounded by Cardinal Brady’s damascene conversion.
While the Cardinal is now demanding politicians defend the rights of children, he was found seriously lacking when he was part of a Church inquiry into Smyth in 1975. Brady was then a 36-year-old canonical lawyer and professor, and he has since described his role as a lowly notary who took notes while two teenage boys recounted their horrific abuse by Smyth.
One of the teenagers, Brendan Boland, had been abused for two years. He told the inquiry about the other young victim, who was then interviewed alone. His parents were never informed.
Mr Boland also gave the inquiry, comprised of three clerics, the names and addresses of five other children at serious risk from Smyth. A BBC documentary in 2012, The Shame of the Catholic Church, tracked those children down. Their parents were never informed. They were never warned. No one was.
The consequence of this inaction was that two of those children continued to be abused by that monster for years. Smyth also began abusing one boy’s little sister and two of his cousins. The family was destroyed.
Cardinal Brady has defended his actions, saying his inquiry recommended Smyth’s removal from priestly duty, but this didn’t happen. Instead, Smyth was given carte blanche to abuse children, on two continents, for another two decades. One of his US victims, lawyer Helen McGonigle, was aged six when Smyth raped and sodomised her. He also abused her sister, Kathleen. She committed suicide in 2005, unable to live any longer with what she had suffered.
Throughout all of those years, the 20 years that Smyth was free to defile countless children, and his subsequent arrest and imprisonment, Cardinal Brady never breathed a word of what he knew. He kept silent.
So, to hear him now, preaching about duties and obligations and imploring politicians to “love, care and support” children, is quite extraordinary. Could there be anyone in a position of authority within the Church who is less qualified to deliver this message?
The fact that the Church still doesn’t get it, that Cardinal Brady has zero credibility when defending children, born or unborn, is an indictment of an institution that is supposed to have learned from the many child abuse scandals perpetrated by its members.
To have a man who spectacularly failed to protect children, who didn’t deign to pick up a phone and warn parents about the monster in their children’s midst, preaching about their protection is an affront to abuse victims, who were abandoned to the depravity of Smyth and clerics like him.
Even the Church’s staunchest supporters are aware of the damage being wrought by Cardinal Brady’s enormous credibility chasm. Last year, Fr Vincent Twomey, a retired professor of moral theology at St Patrick’s College, called for Cardinal Brady’s resignation after fresh allegations about the infamous 1975 inquiry surfaced in that BBC documentary. Fr Twomey said the Cardinal had “lost his moral authority” and that he should go “for the good of the Church”. David Quinn, of the Iona Institute, said he should “consider his position”.
Instead, Cardinal Brady is more prominent than ever and still oblivious to his own breathtaking hypocrisy. Has the Church learned anything? Does it know anything about humility, or repentance, or sensitivity? Clearly not, when the threat of excommunication is being hurled at those politicians who support legislation designed to save lives — women imperilled by pregnancy.
Was Brendan Smyth, who began abusing children in 1952, ever threatened with excommunication? When his decades of disgusting abuse were revealed, did excommunication occur to any senior cleric? Evidently not, because, after he died, just one month into a 12-year jail sentence, in 1997, he was buried in Kilnacrott Abbey and a headstone describing him as ‘reverend’ was erected. This inscription was only removed after his outraged victims protested. This compassion for abusers, and wanton disregard for their victims, typifies a Church that, through persistent cover-ups and collusion, has lost its crumbling facade of moral authority.
WHILE Cardinal Brady has, thus far, limited his concern to the suicide test in X Case legislation, those labouring under the misapprehension that the Church wouldn’t happily support a blanket ban on abortion, even at the expense of women’s lives, should look at what is going on in El Salvador.
There, a 22-year-old woman, Beatriz, who is five-months pregnant with a foetus with anencephaly, is critically ill in hospital suffering from a life-threatening auto-immune disorder.
Doctors have said that she could die if she continues with the pregnancy, but, because of that country’s ban on abortion, which is so strict that medics are prevented from ending ectopic pregnancies, they are unable to help her. They have tried, but a request that they be given immunity from prosecution to treat the young woman was turned down, despite the fact that the foetus has no brain and will either die in utero or immediately after its birth.
Her lawyers have now taken a landmark case to the Supreme Court, but, while a verdict is awaited, has the Church in El Salvador been campaigning to protect life, the only life that can be saved, namely the life of Beatriz? No, they would prefer that she die.
The Archbishop of San Salvador, José Luis Escobar, said a termination of the pregnancy would be “inhuman, against nature and against all principles” and warned the case is evidence of a “movement and agenda” to liberalise abortion law in that country.
Sound familiar? The Church here is now engaged in a similar campaign to stop very restrictive, life-saving abortion legislation from being enacted, but a Church that touts its ‘pro-life’ credentials, while refusing to lift a finger to help the living, has very little to offer the debate.
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