There is a clear public outcry for the resignation of Cardinal Seán Brady, but it may be in the public interest that he has not resigned already, because there are issues involved that should be examined seriously.
Those might have been swept under the proverbial carpet, if he had gone quietly.
As long as he remains, this case is not going fade away. Fr Vincent Twomey, the retired professor of Moral Theology at Maynooth, expressed the conviction that the cardinal should resign “for the good of the Church”.
He also made it clear that there are issues that the Church must address.
It was not just a few boys that Brendan Smyth was allowed to abuse. Between 1945 and 1989, he sexually abused at least 117 children on this island. He was moved about by his superiors with callous indifference to the damage he was doing. By moving him to unsuspecting communities without warning them of his dangerous proclivities, his vile behaviour was actually facilitated.
Even after the one of the boys at the centre of the recent BBC documentary confirmed for the future cardinal the story of his abuse by Brendan Smyth, his parents were not warned, and Smyth was allowed to visit the family regularly. He continued to abuse the boy and abused his sister over a seven-year period, as well as preying on a number of their cousins.
Smyth ingratiated himself with families and violated their children.
Yesterday, Helen McGonigle, an American lawyer, spoke on BBC’s Radio Ulster of her abuse as a six-year-old girl by Smyth in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. She accused him of the worst kind of abuse over a three-year period, and she also said he abused her sister, who had difficulty dealing with the trauma. Her sister subsequently took her own life.
Smyth’s paedophile activities were detected in Rhode Island as early as 1968, but he was not prosecuted in the US. It would seem that the same culture of secrecy existed within the Catholic Church there. In 1979, Smyth was moved back to the US, where he abused other children in Langdon, North Dakota.
He was moved abroad with callous indifference to the devastation that he was causing. Serious questions should be asked about whether any civic authorities were complicit in the outrageous recklessness exhibited by the Church in this sordid matter.
Helen McGonigle called yesterday not just for Cardinal Brady’s resignation but also for the police to investigate the whole matter. The Assistant Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland responded that there would be no knee-jerk decision on whether to launch an investigation. This has been allowed to drag on for too long already — surely no one could possibly suspect a knee-jerk reaction.
If this issue is not tackled properly now, after all that has been revealed, the pall of suspicion will inevitably fall on totally innocent Irish clerics and missionaries. Remember, even hardened journalists in this country were taken in by the totally unfounded allegations against Fr Kevin Reynolds.
It is in the interest not only of justice but also of some of our most dedicated humanitarians that they should not be exposed by our continuing failure to deal properly with the fallout from the clerical paedophile scandals.
This is no longer about whether Cardinal Brady should go; he should have gone at least two years ago.
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