Cardinal Seán Brady celebrated mass on Easter Sunday with some pretty words about rebirth, apologies and child sexual abuse. He did not mention that in the previous week he was asked by survivors of clerical sex abuse to resign. He did not announce his resignation. Instead, during his Easter Sunday sermon, he pledged to remain in his position:
I am resolved to continue to keep the safeguarding of children central to the Mission of the Catholic Church in Ireland. We all have a critical part to play in safeguarding children.
Implicitly, Brady refuses to resign. He will not carry out the request of the survivors of clerical sex abuse. Yet he sees no difficulty including in preaching about the seriousness of the wounds inflicted by the church:
We must take them seriously. We can only move on into the future if we first own our own personal misdeeds. We have to recognise the harm they have done and be resolved to do whatever is necessary to atone for the crimes that have happened and prevent their reoccurrence. Once again, I apologise with all my heart to all survivors of clerical child sexual abuse. At the Good Friday ceremonies in Dundalk I pledged that proper reparation would be made for the harm that has been caused and I renew that pledge this morning.
While it is not quite a non-apology apology, it comes close. As the primate of all Ireland, Brady speaks in generalities. He does not apologise for his personal sins of omission and commission.
Indeed, the portrayal of Brady as a youthful, ignorant school master is a public relations exercise. He received his advanced degree in canon law at the elite Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. There is no Catholic education institution more highly regarded than that he attended. The man is an expert on canon law and has been since 1957.
At the young age of thirty nine, Brady was asked by his bishop, Francis McKiernan, to conduct a canonical inquiry into an allegation of child sexual abuse by Norbertine priest Brendan Smyth. The upshot of the inquiry led to the suspension of Smyth’s confessional privileges. Brady reported to McKiernan who, in turn, passed the information to Norbertine Abbot Kevin Smith, Smyth’s superior.
The question is why was the information never passed on to the police. To answer that, I delved into the history of the monastery. I spoke extensively to people from the diocese of Kilmore, many of whom knew the protagonists well.
I was told that Felim Colwell, Abbot at Kilnacrott until 1968, was a strange man. He had grandiose ideas and an inflated view of his own self importance. At public ceremonies in Saint Patrick and Saint Feidlim’s Cathedral in Cavan, Colwell would dress entirely in white, mimicking the Pope, and proffer his ring to be kissed. This was unusual and made quite an impression on those who attended such functions.
Continue reading here