Ireland’s most senior Catholic cleric vehemently faced down calls to resign after revealing that he was at a secret tribunal where sex abuse victims were made to take an oath of silence. Cardinal Sean Brady said that he had attended two meetings in 1975 concerning Father Brendan Smyth, a notorious paedophile, where two of Smyth’s child victims signed an affidavit promising to discuss their claims only with a specified priest. The secret tribunal was held behind closed doors in 1975 only yards from Dundalk Garda station. But the church did not inform the gardai about the allegations at the time.
It was admitted by the Church that it moved him around Ireland, Britain and the US, where he continued to abuse children for 18 more years after Brady’s ‘Investigation’ In 1997, Smyth died in prison. His rampant abuse of children was known to his superiors in the Catholic church and helped bring down the Fianna Fáil/Labour coalition in 1994. The Catholic church has refused to release Fr. Brendan Smyth’s “assignment record” in the US, which would detail the various parishes Smyth was assigned to.
A woman who was first abused by Smyth in 1974 — the year before the investigation took place — and who was abused until 1979 said the “right thing” would be for Cardinal Brady to resign. “Seán Brady asked a 14-year-old to sign a form of secrecy — that’s what all abusers do . . . to ask a child to sign [up to secrecy] is to collude in what Smyth had been doing. I think those who protect abusers are worse than the abusers,” she added.
Helen McGonigle, a US attorney who was first abused by Smyth at the age of six while he was based in Rhode Island, said the Cardinal’s assertion that he should not be judged by today’s standards was “absolutely wrong. He’s coming to this issue with unclean hands, unclean hands that are borne by the bloodstains of many victims and victims who have committed suicide or attempted to commit suicide.
Jeff Thomas said he was just seven years old when he was abused by Smyth in Rhode Island over a period of three to four months. He said he could not excuse Cardinal Brady for his inaction. “Anybody that has the responsibilities to oversee the flock of the children I think has the professional responsibility when he misses a call this big . . . really, how can you exonerate him? I just think about all the kids that could have been saved from this monster — and he was a monster,” he said.
The cardinal defended his role in the investigation, stating his actions were part of a process that removed the shamed cleric’s licence to act as a priest. “Frankly I don’t believe that this is a resigning matter,” Brady said.