Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cardinal Errors

This statement from the Catholic Church's Communications Office is a fine example of the art of missing the point.

It seems to be trying to suggest that Cardinal Brady, then just Fr Brady, had such a low-level administrative role in the 1975 cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by Brendan Smyth that he can bear no blame for the fact that Smyth was not brought to justice for a further 19 years and was instead at liberty to continue his abuse of children, which is exactly what he did.

The Cardinal says it wasn't up to him to report the matter to the Gardaí. He was also present when two children were sworn to secrecy about Smyth's abuse. Allegations of serious criminal offences against children were all kept in-house by the church and nothing was not reported to the proper authorities. (Of course, given the accounts of Garda failures in the Murphy Report, there are other questions about what exactly the Gardaí would have done.)

Let's imagine that instead of the church this was a private company providing educational and childcare facilities and an allegation of child abuse was made against one of its employees. The company's response is to get the lawyers in, don't report it to the Gardaí, keep the whole matter secret (even swearing the 14- and 15-year-old victims to secrecy), and redeploy the employee to a non-public-facing role. Is that an adequate response? No, it's a cover-up in anyone's language (except Seán Brady's, that is).

The Mail has this:
Cardinal Brady said today that he would not be resigning because he had done nothing wrong.

‘I did act, and act effectively, in that inquiry to produce the grounds for removing Father Smyth from ministry and specifically it was underlined that he was not to hear confessions and that was very important.’

Even if (and it is quite an if) we accept that Fr Brady, as he then was, had such a minor and junior role in the 1975 cover-up that he couldn't possibly have done more than he did, and even if (another big if) we generously forgive his naive dereliction of the moral (regardless of the professional) duty to ensure that the matter was put before the Gardaí, we are still faced with the fact that even now His Eminence Cardinal Brady doesn't understand that this was a cover-up and can't see what he did wrong.

It's a bit like the getaway driver claiming to have had nothing at all to do with the bank robbery. In fact, it has been suggested that Fr Brady's actions in 1975 might have been criminal in themselves: see Colm O'Gorman's discussion of this.

If he remains so blind to his own errors then the fault lies in 2010, not in 1975, and it is Cardinal Brady's, not Fr Brady's, and that is why he can have no credibility.

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