DUBLIN - The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, said Wednesday that he will not resign despite new accusations that he failed 37 years ago to alert the parents of victims of a serial pedophile priest, allowing the abuse to continue for more than a decade.
The cardinal’s statement blamed other members of the church hierarchy as failing to halt the priest, Brendan Smyth.
“With others, I feel betrayed that those who had the authority in the church to stop Brendan Smyth failed to act on the evidence I gave them,’’ Brady said in his statement. “However, I also accept that I was part of an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society, and the church, which thankfully is now a thing of the past.’’
Brady resisted calls to step down two years ago over his role in a 1975 church investigation, saying his role had been confined to taking notes in interviews with a child who said he and others were being abused by Smyth.
The cardinal, who was a teacher, canon lawyer, and bishop’s secretary at the time, maintains that his notes were passed on to his superiors and it had been up to them to act, given that in 1975, he had no major role in the church and no authority over Smyth. However, a BBC current affairs program broadcast Tuesday in Northern Ireland showed church documents from the time in which the cardinal described himself as having been “dispatched to investigate the complaint’’ - not acting as a stenographer - and showcasing details of the accusations along with accounts of those who said the revelations had not halted the abuse.
On the program, “The Shame of the Catholic Church,’’ Brendan Boland, who was 14 when he raised the alarm against Smyth and instigated the 1975 investigation, said he supplied the names and addresses of five other children who he believed were either being abused by the priest or were in danger of being abused by him. A case by Boland against the Archdiocese of Armagh and Brady was settled in November 2011 for an undisclosed sum.
Now 51, Boland says he was sworn to silence after his interview with Brady and two other priests at a meeting in Belfast. The BBC program reported that the parents of the children he named said they were not warned by anyone in the church about the danger Smyth posed.
One of those named said Smyth’s abuse continued. The priest is also accused of assaulting that child’s sister and then four younger cousins over the ensuing 13 years.
The individual concerned, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the program: “Nobody came to our house. They should have come to our house and warned our family or my parents and said, ‘Look this is what’s happening; this man is involved in this. We would strictly advise you to keep him away from the house.’
“Brendan, poor Brendan actually thought giving this information, he thought he was going to protect me and protect other people and thinking this was going to be the end of it. And by God it is far from the end.’’
Brady, who has led the Irish church since 1996, said the documentary misrepresented his role.
On Wednesday, a Vatican official, Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna, told Ireland’s national radio that Brady had “fulfilled his duties well.’’ He said the church in Ireland needed leaders who had “learned the hard way and are determined to protect children.’’
He qualified this afterward, saying: “They have learned because they have realized that you have to act immediately.’’