By SHAWN POGATCHNIK, Associated Press
DUBLIN (AP) — The leader of Ireland's 4 million Catholics said Wednesday he wouldn't resign after a BBC documentary accused him of helping to cover up 1970s child abuse committed by a pedophile priest who went on to assault scores of other children.
Cardinal Sean Brady said the documentary exaggerated his role in his 1975 interviews of two teenage boys abused by priest Brendan Smyth.
Brady said he gave his report as instructed to his bishop, who in turn had responsibility to tell Smyth's religious order leaders. They, not he, had the power to act and failed to do so, Brady said.
"I feel betrayed that those who had the authority in the church to stop Brendan Smyth failed to act on the evidence I gave them. However, I also accept that I was part of an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society, and the church, which thankfully is now a thing of the past," Brady said.
His statement did not address why nobody in the church thought to call the police. Nor did it mention that he, as the canon lawyer in the two interviews, required both boys to sign oaths of secrecy promising not to tell anyone outside the church of the abuse they had suffered. He previously has argued that the oaths were designed to protect the rights of the children, not the reputation of the church.
One of those victims, Brendan Boland, told the BBC that Brady and two other priests involved in gathering his 1975 testimony made his father wait outside the room. Boland, aged 14 at the time, said he told the priests the names and addresses of five other boys and girls that were being sexually assaulted by Smyth, including a Belfast boy who had been molested in Boland's presence.
The BBC interviewed all five and reported that their parents never received any message of warning from the church.
The Belfast victim, whose face and identity were shielded on the program, said he had been assaulted for another year, then Smyth turned to his younger sister until 1982, then to four of their cousins until 1988.
Colm O'Gorman, director of rights watchdog Amnesty International in Ireland, said Brady was trying to pin blame for the church's silence on his former bishop and head of Smyth's religious order, both of whom are dead. He said Brady failed to demonstrate the moral courage of the teenage Boland, "who came forward to ensure that no other children suffered like he did."
"Cardinal Brady is offering the classic excuse of the Nazi death camp guard: I was only following orders. This is coming from an institution that is supposed to stand for love, truth and justice," said Gorman, who was himself raped by a priest when he served as an altar boy in his native Wexford. That priest committed suicide shortly before his 1999 criminal trial.
Smyth, who allegedly abused dozens of children in the U.S. states of Rhode Island and North Dakota, was finally imprisoned in the British territory of Northern Ireland in 1994 after his conviction for molesting four children in the same Belfast family. His conviction helped open the floodgates for lawsuits and criminal complaints against hundreds of Irish priests, nuns and other church officials.
A prominent Irish support group for child abuse victims, One in Four, said Brady once declared he would resign if his actions had resulted in abuse of even a single child, and should follow through on that promise now.
"The documentary suggests that many children could have been protected from the sexual predator if Cardinal Brady had not been so invested in protecting the church," One in Four said in a statement.
But Brady, 72, insisted his pledge covered only the years since his 1990s elevation into church management. "In 1975, I was not a bishop," he said.
When pressed later in an interview on Ireland's state RTE radio, Brady said it had "crossed his mind" to resign, but he couldn't justify this, given that he "did what I was expected to do to the best of my ability."
When asked why he never checked to see what happened to Smyth or to the vulnerable children identified in his report, Brady said: "I don't think it was my role to follow through."
Boland, who received confidential legal settlements from Smyth's Norbertine order in 2006 and from the Catholic Church last year, told the BBC that he and his parents received verbal assurances that Smyth would be barred from further contact with children. Instead, the Norbertines transferred him to a series of Irish and American parishes in what it later described as an effort to deter him from forming "attachments" with particular boys and girls.