This article was first published on the 15th March 2010.
Cardinal Seán Brady has featured in a good number of posts on this site.
In December 2006, I wrote to him here after he said that there was more coarseness in Irish society than there used to be. In Seán’s opinion, there was too much sexualisation of children at an early age, and how right he was.
What Seán overlooked though, was his personal involvement in silencing the victims of sexual abuse thirty years previously, when he extracted oaths of confidentiality from child-victims of the mass rapist, Brendan Smyth. Whatever these broken children revealed to Seán and his fellow interrogators, would not be passed to the authorities.
And yet, for all that this holy man felt entitled to go on the airwaves two years ago and fulminate about the moral lapses of the general public, he seemed to have no qualms about interviewing a raped ten-year-old in 1975, a terrified child under an oath of silence, nor did he seem to have qualms about keeping this information to himself, without ever thinking to inform the police.
I’m sure that if Seán had remembered his role in this ecclesiastical investigation, he would surely not have complained that we sexualise our children these days more than we used to. After all, if his colleague’s rape of children wasn’t an early sexualisation, I don’t know what is.
It’s ironic that Seán’s predecessor, Cardinal Cahal Daly, relied on an administrative defence when questioned about his handling of Brendan Smyth’s crimes.
As I recall, Cahal told reporters that he had no direct responsibility for Smyth because, as a member of the Norbertine order, Smyth came under the control of the order’s authorities rather than Cahal’s. Therefore Cahal Daly couldn’t interfere to stop the rapist from raping children.
In light of that, I’d be interested to know how and why Seán Brady was involved in interviewing children as a purely ecclesiastical matter, since the diocese didn’t have any authority over the criminal. What exactly was the nature of this inquiry, if Cahal Daly is to be believed — and who would doubt the word of such an eminent churchman?
Years after Daly’s limp explanation for his failure to control a rapist, in a further irony, Seán Brady made a liar of him by intervening directly to prevent a member of another order, the Augustinians, from sharing a service of peace and reconciliation with a local Church of Ireland rector.
I heard a heartless old man on the radio this morning seeking to defend Brady’s moral failure by reference to Canon Law. The condescending old cleric, Monsignor Maurice Dooley, dared to suggest that his church’s private rules take precedence over the law of the land, and had the further effrontery to suggest that the fault lay with the police for failing to catch the rapist. This was even though Brady and his boss had failed to inform the police about what they knew concerning his crimes, and had placed a terrifying obligation on damaged children to remain silent.
Dooley went on to say that Brady committed no offence by withholding the information and perhaps that’s true. But there’s another act on the irish statute book; the Offences Against the State Act, 1939, and this act explicitly forbids oaths designed to prevent a victim from disclosing details of a crime.
Administering unlawful oaths
17.—(1) Every person who shall administer or cause to be administered or take part in, be present at, or consent to the administering or taking in any form or manner of any oath, declaration, or engagement purporting or intended to bind the person taking the same to do all or any of the following things, that is to say:—
( a ) to commit or to plan, contrive, promote, assist, or conceal the commission of any crime or any breach of the peace, or
( d ) to abstain from disclosing or giving information of the Commission or intended or proposed commission of any crime, breach of the peace, or from informing or giving evidence against the person who committed such an act,
shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and shall be liable on conviction thereof to suffer imprisonment for any term not exceeding two years.
If Brady had gone to the police in 1975 — and there seems to be good reason to suppose that they would have secured a conviction — Smyth would not have been in a position to continue raping children for another twenty years.
But the church didn’t even go that far. In reality, they allowed Smyth a free hand and unfettered access to children and did nothing to stop him. By their actions, they facilitated the rapist.
These are the men who for generations have lectured the Irish people about sexual morality. These are the men who, over generations, made sexual transgressions the worst of all in their demonology, and yet the same men claimed not to understand that Smyth’s rape of children was wrong.
I don’t believe them. Who could believe a word they say about anything?
Brady won’t resign, though, because, just like his colleagues, he doesn’t get it. After all, it was only last week that a fellow bishop, Christopher Jones, was complaining about the unfair treatment of the Catholic church. Seán Brady was a staunch supporter of disgraced bishop of Cloyne, even going so far as to suggest that John Magee should be allowed to remain in office for the protection of children.
Get that now: Cardinal Seán Brady, who personally interviewed raped children and placed them under oath not to speak about the crimes of the man who defiled them, last year defended a bishop who ignored the complaints of rape victims.
Be clear about this. Seán Brady questioned small children about the precise details of how a grown man in clerical garb touched their bodies, penetrated them and ejaculated all over them. Brady wrote it all down and swore the children to secrecy but was not sufficiently outraged to tell the police about these crimes.
What a mighty man.
This is the individual who suggested that John Magee, the bishop who ignored rape victims, was suitable to implement child-protection measures.
Why would anyone imagine such a character would resign?
Pledge signed by abused children (according to UTV news):
I will never, directly or indirectly, by gesture, word, writing or in any other way, and under any pretext, even that of a greater good or of a highly urgent and serious reason, do anything against this fidelity to secrecy, unless special permission or dispensation is expressly granted to me by the Supreme Pontiff.
Note from the Catholic Communications Office to clarify media reporting on Cardinal Seán Brady – 16 March 2010
* The State’s first Child Abuse Guidelines came into effect in 1987 and the Church’s first guidelines Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response, were published in 1996.
* In late March 1975, Fr Seán Brady was asked by his bishop, Bishop Francis McKiernan, to conduct a canonical enquiry into an allegation of child sexual abuse which was made by a boy in Dundalk, concerning a Norbertine priest, Fr Brendan Smyth.
* Fr Brady was then a full-time teacher at St Patrick’s College, Cavan. Because he held a doctorate in Canon Law, Fr Brady was asked to conduct this canonical enquiry; however he had no decision-making powers regarding the outcome of the enquiry.
Bishop McKiernan held this responsibility.
* On 29 March 1975, Fr Brady and two other priests interviewed a boy (14) in Dundalk. Fr Brady’s role was to take notes. On 4 April 1975, Fr Brady interviewed a second boy (15) in the Parochial House in Ballyjamesduff. On this occasion Fr Brady conducted the inquiry by himself and took notes.
* At the end of both interviews, the boys were asked to confirm by oath the truthfulness of their statements and that they would preserve the confidentiality of the interview process. The intention of this oath was to avoid potential collusion in the gathering of the inquiry’s evidence and to ensure that the process was robust enough to withstand challenge by the perpetrator, Fr Brendan Smyth.
* A week later Fr Brady passed his findings to Bishop McKiernan for his immediate action.
* Eight days later, on 12 April 1975, Bishop McKiernan reported the findings to Fr Smyth’s Religious Superior, the Abbot of Kilnacrott. The specific responsibility for the supervision of Fr Smith’s activities was, at all times, with his Religious Superiors. Bishop McKiernan withdrew Brendan Smyth’s priestly faculties and advised psychiatric intervention.
[Note: the Abbott took no action against Smyth. The bishop subsequently permitted him to resume duties as a priest in the diocese.]
Colm O Gorman