"Now I know . . . I should have done more, but I thought at the time I was doing what I was required to do," Cardinal Sean Brady said.
Irish cardinal won’t resign over abuse case
Concedes failure to inform police about molester
DUBLIN — Ireland’s senior Roman Catholic, Cardinal Sean Brady, said yesterday that he would not resign despite conceding that he helped the church collect evidence against a child-molesting priest — and never told police about the crimes.
Brady, as a priest and Vatican-trained canon lawyer in 1975, said he interviewed two children about being abused by the Rev. Brendan Smyth. He said both children were required to sign oaths promising not to tell anyone outside the church of their allegations.
Smyth went on to molest and rape scores of other children in Ireland, Britain, and the United States before British authorities in neighboring Northern Ireland demanded his arrest in 1994. The Irish government at the time collapsed amid acrimony over why Smyth had not been extradited to Belfast.
Brady acknowledged his role in gathering evidence against Smyth because he has been named as a defendant in a Dublin lawsuit filed by one of Smyth’s victims. Lawyers in that case unearthed records of Brady’s involvement in gathering testimony from two Irish victims who said they were abused by Smyth about 1970. Martin Long, Brady’s spokesman, said both victims were boys.
Brady said it was the responsibility of his diocesan bishop, as well as the leader of Smyth’s separate Catholic order of priests, to tell police. But he said the church didn’t do this because of “a culture of silence about this, a culture of secrecy.’’
“Yes, I knew that these were crimes,’’ Brady said. “But I did not feel that it was my responsibility to denounce the actions of Brendan Smyth to the police. Now I know with hindsight that I should have done more, but I thought at the time I was doing what I was required to do.’’
The Vatican has been on the defensive over a widening array of child-abuse scandals in European countries, including the Pope Benedict XVI’s homeland of Germany. Since January, about 300 Germans have come forward to allege that priests assaulted, molested, or raped them in Catholic boarding schools.
Yesterday, the Munich archdiocese — which the pope oversaw from 1977 to 1982 — announced that a priest originally convicted of sexually abusing children in 1986 has been suspended from pastoral duties because he had broken a promise not to have contact with minors.
Smyth abused at least 90 children in Ireland, Britain and in US parishes in Rhode Island and North Dakota from 1948 to 1993. His Irish religious order, the Norbertines, gave him sanctuary in the Republic of Ireland in 1991 after one Belfast family told Northern Ireland police he had molested four of their children.
After his delayed 1994 arrest and extradition north, Smyth spent three years in prison. In 1997 he pleaded guilty to 74 counts of sexually abusing 20 boys and girls between 1958 and 1993 in the Republic of Ireland.
He died of a heart attack one month into his 12-year sentence.
Several of Smyth’s Irish and American victims said yesterday they couldn’t believe that Brady had known since 1975 about Smyth’s pedophilia.
Helen McGonigle, 48, who said Smyth molested her four decades ago in East Greenwich, R. I., said the Irish cardinal “sat on this information for 35 years’’ and was admitting it now only because of the lawsuit. “He has absolutely no excuses for that, none whatsoever. He is protecting the hierarchy of the church itself and not protecting children,’’ said McGonigle, who is suing the church in Rhode Island.
Irish lawmaker Roisin Shortall said yesterday that the cardinal was “hopelessly compromised’’ and may have been guilty of taking part in a criminal conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
“It is bad enough that children should have been abused by a priest, but it is almost beyond belief that these children should also have been required to take an oath that they would not disclose the abuse to anyone,’’ she said.
Brady said he would resign as leader of Ireland’s 4 million Catholics only if the pope asked him to go. Benedict so far has failed to accept the resignation offers of three other Irish bishops who have been implicated in Catholic abuse coverups in Dublin.