You have to hand it to these old bishops — they don’t give up easily. Even when faced with facts of the most appalling starkness, they always keep a little in reserve against the awful day when they might be asked an even harder question.
And so it is with Seán Brady, formerly known as Cardinal Seán Brady and before that known as Father John Brady, a canon lawyer who interviewed (or in his own terminology, interrogated) a boy who had been raped by Brendan Smyth.
Previously, Brady claimed, and continues to claim, that he was only a minor actor in the process whereby a young boy was sexually abused yet again by Brady and his fellow clerics who asked the child a series of invasive questions that must have traumatised him beyond words.
Following the interrogation, as Brady described it, he swore the child to secrecy, while the child’s father was kept outside the room. Demonstrating an unerring ability to avoid reality, Brady ventured that it was wrong to exclude the child’s father from the interrogation when in fact the truth is that it was wrong to hold such an interrogation in the first place instead of calling the police and telling them about the abuse.
This he did not do, and neither did his fellow clerics. His bishop didn’t do it and Smyth’s superior in Kilnacrott Abbey didn’t do it. In fact, his superior did nothing at all and neither did the bishop, apart from a temporary ban on Smyth hearing confessions.
Brady today admitted to the Historical Abuse Inquiry that the only purpose of the interrogation was to see how the priest could be rehabilitated, and that there was no awareness of the needs of the child, which of course is utter nonsense, since the entire country knew, and had always known, that child abuse is a crime.
Brady was 35 years old at the time and a canon lawyer, which was a rare enough thing. He was no mere note-taker as he proved when he went on to interrogate other children on his own to verify the complaints against Smyth.
Brady also swore these children to secrecy.
As a result of Brady’s inaction, along with the indifference of his fellow clergy, Brendan Smyth went on to rape children for a further two decades.
Brady speaks the truth when he says that there was a shroud of secrecy with a view not to destroying the good name of the church, and yet he and his fellow clerics dictated to the Irish people since time out of mind what sort of sexual activity was acceptable and what was not. As recently as last March, Brady’s successor as Archbishop of Armagh stated that that gay people who have children are not necessarily parents. Only last month, Eamon Martin attempted to tell the Irish people how to vote in the marriage equality referendum, and in return, received a gigantic two fingers from the electorate.
In general though, apart from one or two outbursts, the bishops remained circumspect, leaving a few fringe groups of fanatical religious ideologues like the Iona Institute and Mothers & Fathers Matter to make the futile political running.
Brendan Smyth didn’t cause this collapse in respect for the Catholic bishops. They brought it on themselves by their inaction in dealing with sexual abuse and their arrogance in continuing to lecture grown adults about sexual morality in a country that had moved on and left them behind on their moral atoll, like the last Japanese soldiers in the Pacific.
As a result, the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland are now reduced to impotent bystanders, while their role as spokesmen for the orthodoxy has been reduced to half a dozen dysfunctional religious lunatics ranting on Twitter.
How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!