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I’ve watched RTE reporter Tommie Gorman’s 18 minute interview on May 2 with Catholic Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh, Cardinal Sean Brady, about when, in 1975, as a part-time 36 year-old-secretary to a bishop, he was the notetaker at a meeting with a young man telling his story of being abused by the most persistent of paedophile priests, Fr Brendan Smyth.
It was part of a private Church investigation into Fr Smyth.
It was examined again on the BBC’s This World broadcast on May 1. Fr Smyth died in 1997, one month into his 12-year sentence, and was buried very late on a dark night.
He was ordained in 1947 and by the late 1940s his molesting of children came to light to the Church authorities.
He was first arrested in 1991 in Northern Ireland and he went on the run in the Republic until arrested in 1994, when an extradition warrant from NI caused legal confusion and partly caused the end of a government.
Cardinal Brady interviewed another boy at the time,
as well as being again note-taker. They gathered a lot of “excruciating” detail, as Tommy said. The bishop gave it to Fr. Smiyh’s head of the Norbintines Order, the cardinal explained, and he did not query it further as in those days, priests didn’t do that, even secretaries to bishops. He wouldn’t have the authority.
That is true.
The head of the Norbintines had the power (not the bishop or a cardinal) to stop Fr. Smyth. I am sure a bishop or cardinal could have pressured if they tried. He was an absolute danger to children.
Tommie Gorman asked why weren’t parents of the children known to be in danger not informed?
The reason given is that no-one would have questioned a bishop as there was a culture of deference and silence.
We do know why the Church authorities did not act on Fr Smyth or others like him — a lack of moral courage and respect for the Catholic public.
There was absolute respect in the 1970s by 95% of Ireland’s Catholics to the Church. Anyone who strongly spoke up on paedophile priests, including decent priests, were threatened with excommunication. These churchmen weren’t parents, but had more say than them. Church authority over Irish Catholics’ lives was the norm.
Ireland was a closed society. People didn’t talk about issues. RTE’s Late Late Show presented from 1964/65 to 1999 by Gay Byrne changed this, as it was a public forum for debate.
Tommie asked the Cardinal what would Jesus do? He said he didn’t know. It may seem unfair to him, the calls again like in 2010 to resign, but based on what is written about Jesus’ life 2000 years ago, he may see it as the kind of affirmative action, which would show true solidarity with the hundreds abused by Fr Smyth in Belfast, Dublin and the USA over 40 years, and to those who took their own lives because of it. It would help to heal a wound.
The Vatican supports him in staying on, which is why resignation seems remote.
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