Hello there Seán.
It’s been a while since I wrote to you, but that’s only because, as a wounded healer, I thought you might need time to get over the terrible hurt you experienced when the world found out how you treated those abused children. Are you feeling a little better now?
Look, Seán, this latest news isn’t great, is it? Not great at all.
None of it looks very good, not even your claim to have been a young priest following orders when you wrote down what the abused children said. Seán, you were 36. You were a teacher in a secondary school, and a former county footballer, unless I’m mistaken. Thirty six, Seán. Most guys of that age have taken responsibility for a job, a family, a career, a home, but you say you were only a young lad.
What are you — Father Dougal?
Now, Seán, about these questions. Did you not think it was a bit creepy of your colleague to ask a child if he enjoyed some of the sexual abuse by Brendan Smyth? Did that not strike you as in the least bit pervy? And yet, Seán, you wrote it all down faithfully. As a man, did it ever occur to you to reach over and touch your fellow cleric on the shoulder, and tell him to stop asking a child such obscene questions?
It doesn’t look like you did, Seán. It looks like you found this sort of thing perfectly normal.
I was listening to your interview on the news at lunchtime, and I must say, you didn’t come across at all well. One thing that struck me was your constant repetition of the defence that you did what was required of you. You passed the details to your bishop and you just assumed someone would sort it out.
I have a couple of questions for you about that, Seán.
First, you kept repeating that the information about Brendan Smyth raping children was given to the abbott of Kilnacrott, and you said he was the only person with the power to do anything about it. Seán, were you familiar with an organisation known as an Garda Síochána? And since the crimes were committed in both jurisdictions, were you also familiar with an organisation known at the time as the RUC?
Did it cross your mind to report these crimes of child rape to either police force? Apparently not. You decided to let the abbot of Kilnacrott sort it out instead, and what a fine job he made of it.
Tommie Gorman asked you a question that you didn’t answer, Seán. He said something along the following lines. Did you not feel, as a man, as an uncle, a cousin, a brother, that you wanted to break every bone in Brendan Smyth’s body?
You were a fit, strong athlete in those days, Seán, and you were no stranger to a punch-up on the field of play, so let me ask you again. Why did you not call round to Brendan Smyth and take him by the throat? Why did you not kick him in the crotch a few times and leave him retching in the dirt? I know I’d do it if a child revealed to me what you heard. What you knew.
Instead of doing that, Seán, you went on to swear the child to secrecy. What’s more, even though the child gave you the names of five other children Brendan Smyth was raping, you never told their parents. Instead, you left it in the hands of your bishop, who had no authority over Smyth, and the abbot of Kilnacrott who plainly cared not a tittle that one of his community was out abusing kids. It was a matter of confidentiality, I think you said. As a consequence, Brendan Smyth went on raping children for another twenty years, while you concentrated on your Vatican career.
Did you ever wake up at night and wonder what became of those raped kids?
I’m prepared to admit that you’re a decent enough man, Seán, but your claim not to have understood how sexual abuse hurts children is hard to accept. After all, you are a prominent member of the organisation that for generations dictated to Irish governments and Irish people on all manner of sexual matters, including contraception. Indeed, you yourself recently spoke out denouncing the law on civil partnership.
Isn’t it remarkable, Seán, how quick you were to invoke the law regarding same-sex couples in a loving mature relationship, yet how slow you were to call in the authorities when you knew categorically that one of your colleagues was systematically raping children?
I know you were wounded by the previous revelations about you, Seán, and it’s not that I wish you any more harm, but really, isn’t it about time you dropped the hypocrisy and started to face up to your actions like any normal grown adult?
You’re far too old to play Dougal McGuire, Seán. It’s a role for a younger man.
Previously: Seán gets the Red Hat