That sick feeling I’ve had in my stomach on and off since the Murphy Report was published last November is back. And I’m angry. In 1975 When Cardinal Sean Brady was a priest investigating allegations of child sexual abuse against Father Brendan Smyth he had the children who made the allegations sign a document to say that their allegations and his investigation would be kept secret. Today Sean Brady says that that does not mean he covered up those sexual abuse allegations. Yes it does. He says Brendan Smyth was no longer allowed to be a priest. Yes he was. He just wasn’t a priest of the Diocese, but he was still a priest, with all of the access to children that such a position gave him. What Sean Brady did was to participate in a process which removed Smyth as a problem, a liability, for the Diocese. But that process did nothing to remove Smyth from having access to more children who he went on to sexually abuse.
People are livid with anger listening to Sean Brady’s pathetic excuses in the last couple of days. He says he was not the designated person to report the matter to the authorities – this is self serving nonsense. He was an intelligent man, highly enough regarded by the Catholic Church to conduct this investigation in the first place. He allowed himself to be part of a process whereby the Church did investigate these matters internally instead of reporting them to the civil authorities. That process blatantly failed, as it was destined to do, because the motivation behind it was the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal and the protection of the reputation of the Church. Other children paid the price for that failure and Sean Brady should step aside not least out of respect for the experiences of children who were sexually abused after that time in 1975.
Father Ivan Payne did enormous damage to me when he sexually abused me as a child. For many years I carried the hurt and pain that that caused me and my life fell apart. In time I turned things round again for myself and I feel that I live my personal life very much, though not entirely, free of that hurt and pain. When the Murphy Report was published I was deeply saddened at the thoughts of so many other children sexually abused by priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin. I was furious to read of so many of those children abused by priests that the Archdiocese knew to be a danger to children.
I expected to see Bishops who were part of the governance of the Archdiocese at any time between 1975 and 2004 immediately offer to stand aside. To me it was irrelevant the extent to which individual Bishops were named or not named, so horrendous were the accounts of sexual abuse of children, I thought Bishops would be so shamed that so much of it was covered up on their watch that they would go immediately. Instead we were treated to the sight of one Bishop after another attempt to minimise his own role and refer to the Report as containing nothing that should cause him to have to resign.
Bishop Moriarty said he was not directly criticised in the Report, Bishop Drennan said there was nothing negative about him either, Bishop Field said he’d done nothing wrong, Bishop Walsh said if he had done any wrong he’d be gone and Bishop Murray said he never deliberately or knowingly sought to cover up or withhold information brought to my attention.
None of them seemed to be at all moved by experiences so many children had at the hands of abusing priests. Didn’t they care? No they didn’t. Paragraph 1.35 of the Murphy Report describes the bishops’ attitude as they covered up for paedophile priests: “There was little or no concern for the welfare of the abused child or for the welfare of other children who might come into contact with the priest.” (That sentence could have been written for Sean Brady). Judging from the sight of Bishops as they obscenely attempted to cling onto office they had no more concern for the welfare of adult men and women who demanded they account and take responsibility for what they had done, and what they had failed to do, as they had for those same men and women when they were little children whose lives were being devastated by known paedophile priests.
Bishop Murray has since resigned. Bishops Moriarty, Walshe and Field offered their resignations to Pope Benedict before Christmas 2009 but they have not yet been accepted and we don’t know that they will be. Bishop Drennan not only refuses to meet victims of clerical sexual abuse, but he adds insult to injury by describing victims as being hard to move on from a position of seeking revenge. Such insulting comments don’t bring up hurt and anger from when I was a child. I am hurt and angry today to see Catholic Bishops so intent on clinging onto office that they disregard and disrespect the experiences of children sexually abused by priests by describing us as vengeful and unreasonable and unrealistic in our expectations. When Bishops consider the extent to which children were sexually abused by known paedophile priests and still shrug off calls for resignations it’s as if they are saying such matters are not important enough to cause them to have to resign.
Cardinal Sean Brady is doing the very same thing now, he knows children were sexually abused after 1975, when he was aware of Brendan Smyth’s activities, but he says that his failure to protect those children from Smyth isn’t a serious enough matter to cause his resignation. Yes it is.