Cardinal Brady should go – in charity

I’ve never been keen on a feeding frenzy and there will always be something deeply ironic about Martin McGuinness, despite his peacetime record, calling for anyone to resign, not least a cardinal who despite the facts which the BBC augmented only slightly this week, is still respected and warmly liked by many.

It must be acknowledged that since the 2010 revelations, many, perhaps most Catholics – and plenty of non-Catholics too – appear to have forgiven Cardinal Brady as a genuinely good man.  But is that not the measure of the personal part of his tragedy? Precisely because he is a leader of a church which represents a supposed Higher Authority, is it fair on him now to rely on a level of public support when it comes to “considering his position?”

Ssome of the arguments quoted in Mick’s post including Malachi’s are unsettling for a non-Catholic. These  too readliy accept the parameters of church law and authority. What’s the problem with that you may ask: the Cardinal is the head of a church establishment and not a State? But whether you regard canon or state law as superior is otiose: obligations under State law are imperative and are now explicitly recognised as such by the Church – if only just and only recently .

Even if his defence in the BBC documentary was given insufficient weight in the programme itself,( see inset in the Irish Times report)   was it acceptable to lean so strongly on the observance of church law and procedure, categories which have been so comprehensively discredited? There was something almost extra-terrestrial about that part of defence (repeated I think from the 2010 news archive), when he said that Brendan Smyth had been “suspended from hearing confessions” – as if that could conceivably be an adequate response. This legalism however conscientiously held, has surely been a core weakness of the Church’s position all along.

Even accepting his own context, a church “ notary” may not be a member of the Inquisition but he has to be a person in ecclesiastical  authority and not a mere stenographer. And what “guidelines“ were needed in 1975 or at any other time  to denounce, report personally or at least  follow up the evidence, of a priest inserting a body part into a child?  Fr Brady also took evidence alone from Belfast children without apparent follow up or obvious public consequences for more than a decade later: these may have been the instances that finally led to Smyth’s extradition, trial and imprisonment.  This was also an event, remember, that played a great part in bringing down the Reynolds led coalition.

Will the cardinal again be reprieved  or will his junior but arguably still culpable role in massive scandal return to haunt him once more, when perhaps some other missing detail is exposed?  This surely is the salient factor now. His resignation may be a harsh verdict on his entire pastoral career. But as a verdict on the Church he heads as well as on himself after his latest  defence, it would not be unjust.



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  • The Cardinal failed to pass on important information to the parents and to the civil authorities – but just look at who’s throwing the stones:

    Three out of the four main parties in the Republic of Ireland and the Northern Irish Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have called on Cardinal Brady to consider his position.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Why did he not stand down during the last year? He bought himself some time, and most gave him a chance, the sensible option would have been to let the dust settle for a year and a bit then retire, he could have went out with dignity and a slightly tarnished reputation. Now he has no credibility, and if forced out the next man will start with a shadow over his reign. Commonsence should have told him it would come back to haunt him again.

  • Neil

    To be as generous to Brady as I can be, he may not be culpable under canon law, and he may have fulfilled his obligations as such. But as a human being he’s fallen short. I don’t see how my reaction as a father should be any different now than it would have been in 75. It’s a natural instinct and an obligation as a decent person (and a Christian of any hue) to protect any child.

    I don’t doubt he’s a good guy with good intentions, but for the good of the church, which has been decimated by people of his generation, of his career and to a certain extent under his watch, he should resign. As a human and a citizen he should reflect not on his obligations under canon law, but his obligations as a Christian.

    If you cast this sorry affair as a version of the good Samaritan, Brady passed on by on the other side. Whatsoever you do onto the least of my brothers you do onto me. There are 100 applicable quotes in that book which should cause Brady some discomfort.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Sorry, just couldn’t resist pointing out the towering idiocy of the line from the BBC report to which Nevin refers:

    ‘Three out of the four main parties in the Republic of Ireland and the Northern Irish Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have called on Cardinal Brady to consider his position.’

    Which of the ‘four main parties in the Republic’ has NOT called on the Cardinal to ‘consider his postition,’ one may wonder?

    Why, SF, of course.

    Except that, in the very same sentence, it’s reported that Martin McGuinness has called on the Cardinal to do so.

    What party does Robert Piggott think Martin McGuinness is a member of?

    In fact, all four of the main parties in the Republic have called on the Cardinal to ‘consider his position’.

  • Henry94

    Could Martin McGuinness remind us what his policy was in 1975 about reporting anything to the RUC?

    Was it that you could be shot for it? So should the Cardinal now resign at the behest of McGuinness because the policy has changed?

    It was long after 1975 that Eamonn Gilmore remained a member of a political party that gave unconditional support to the Soviet Union. It took the collapse of the Soviet Union itself to make him see the light. Some moral leader there!

    None of this of course is to excuse the Cardinal who should consider his position in spite of inappropriate political interference. But not because of it. In fact I think the political interference will make it impossible for his resignation to proceed and that is a pity.

  • “the towering idiocy of the line from the BBC report”

    BP, the BBC religious affairs correspondent’s knowledge of political matters may be of a similar standing to that of his alleged knowledge of religious ones ..

  • Then there’s the difficulty of the Congress coming up in June. These words were a hostage to fortune:

    We asked people all around Ireland and the world to “Ring for Renewal” on St Patrick’s Day.

    The bell would seem to be tolling for a number of high ranking members of the Catholic Church.

  • Alias

    If he did bow to public/political/media pressure and offer his resignation to the Pope, would the Pope accept it?

    Two Dublin bishops who offered to resign after the Murphy report had their resignation offers declined by Pope Benedict.

    The Vatican won’t convict on public opinion, so it holds that Cardinal Brady did nothing to warrant resignation then it won’t accept his resignation.

    To do so would be to set a precedent that would undermine Church authority in these matters – and Rome has zero intention of falling into that trap.

    The media’s agenda is not to determine who is a fit and proper person to be a Cardinal anyway but to have an opportunity to undermine it by saying to the public “Oh look how arrogant the Church is for refusing to bow to your opinions”.

  • strange language

    “…..inserting a body part into a child?”

    Neither a euphemism nor a dysphemism. I think rape is graphic enough thank you.

  • ayeYerMa

    McGuinness and his whole party needs to take his own advice regarding matters of resigning over immorality in the 1970s, along with the party’s Dear Bearded One’s failure relating to similar knowledge of sexual abuse.

    Regarding other Northern Irish parties and knock-on effects, could this be the catalyst towards more proper separation of church and state with a single funded education system where such a hierarchy has no influence on the state-funded education of our children?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Good posts from Henry and Alias.

    Regardless of the rights and wrongs, my prediction is that Brady will not go. He may well wish to, but the Pope will not accept his resignation.

    Basically, there’s a hard man in the Vatican, who doesn’t care a jot for media pressure, for the (inappropriate) interjections of political leaders, nor even particularly for the opinions from the pews.

    Benedict’s view, by all accounts, is that a time of crisis is no time to show weakness. Expect iron defiance from that quarter, until the heat of the controversy cools.

    Poor Sean Brady will remain in post until either:

    a) death; or
    b) it’s possible for him to retire without any suggestion that he has been forced to do so by external pressures.

    The latter may never be possible, which leaves only the former.

    But an important principle (from the point of view of the hierarchy) will have been upheld: public opinion, and professional ‘opinion formers,’ may make and break other public figures, but the Vatican is above being coerced by such forces.

  • anne warren

    I would like to focus on the Cardinal’s actions, not what any other political party did or did not do at the time or at present because if we keep dragging in red herrings we lose sight of the enormity of his crimes.

    As far as I know the earliest child protection laws in the UK date from the beginning of the 20th century.
    I personally know of a child in Belfast in the mid 1960s who witnessed a man exposing himself in a local park and told her parents who then phoned the police immediately. The police followed through and decided on a course of action with the parents. So however rudementary compared with modern legislation, procedures were in place even 50-odd years ago to deal with such complaints. And please note that exposure in a public place is a much less serious crime than child rape.

    Furthermore, definitely by the mid 70s, if not earlier, people were obliged to report to the police any information they had about crimes.

    If there is a lawyer in the house, could s/he please explain why the Cardinal cannot be prosecuted at least for failure to report a crime and possibly for aiding and abetting a criminal pedophile?

  • Barnshee

    Take a leaf from the public sector –After a decent interval -kick him quietly “upstairs” to the Roman catholic equivalent of the House of Lords or the senate.. A call from Rome for a special project etc?

  • Newman

    I have tended to treat Brian Walker’s treatment of Catholicism as requiring a health warning so far is it from understanding the nature of the Catholic Church, but on this issue I think he is right. Best analysis to date has been Fr Vincent Twomey’s piece on Prime Time with Miriam O’Callaghan. With a heavy heart, a recognition that the Cardinal is paying a heavy price for the sins of others, for the good of the Church and in recognition of the suffering of the victims it is better he goes.

  • sherdy

    I agree with the heading ‘Cardinal Brady should go’, but I would finish with ‘to jail’.

  • wild turkey

    b) it’s possible for him to retire without any suggestion that he has been forced to do so by external pressures.

    Billy P

    if he goes, it will be on health grounds well, he can’t express a wish to spend more time with his family.

    a bit off topic perhaps, but your nom de plume has jogged me to ponder this.

    what would Kurt Vonnegut be saying/writing about the ongoing child abuse saga in the roman church? hmmm.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Wild Turkey

    To paraphrase the joke Vonnegut made at the funeral of a former president of the American Humanist Society, ‘he’s looking down on us now…’

    Vonnegut didn’t have much time for organised religion. Nor did he have much time for hypocrites.

    To assume he would have sided with, say, Eamon Gilmore, or various media institutions, against the Catholic Church, is as perverse as assuming he would side with the Church.

    I daresay he’d marvel, once more, at the bottomless wickedness and stupidity of humans.

  • iluvni

    Whats Brady’s role with regard to the Catholic schools sector in NI…has he an input?

  • wild turkey

    “To assume he would have sided with, say, Eamon Gilmore, or various media institutions, against the Catholic Church, is as perverse as assuming he would side with the Church.

    I daresay he’d marvel, once more, at the bottomless wickedness and stupidity of humans.”

    Billy P

    couldn’t put it better. nor could KV for that matter


  • Brian Walker

    The idea that the Pope should finally refuse to accept a resignation is surely doubtful. If the cardinal conscientiously felt unable to go on in his own mind it would be outrageous to decline to accept it. In 2010, one could see an argument for soldiering on for a while to test public reaction and maybe because he genuinely felt he was not sufficently at fault. Catholic opinion was divided but tilted in his favour ( though perhaps the abp of Dublin was on the other side?). Fr Brady was still a good man.

    If we take the cardinal’s latest statement at face value he still believes he has enough moral authority to continue
    What changed this week? To be honest, factually not a lot.But many people seem to be having second thoughts and these won’t go away. The balance of opinion may have tilted against him once the immediate reaction to the documentary has faded..

    The cardinal must believe he has the support of most of the hierarchy and the Vatican and may even be under pressure to remain. To be sure, the Church does not behave like a lay government under pressure, where such assurances often presage departure.

    We will soon learn if either the Pope or the cardinal finally rate public opinion or will try to rely on their own authority. I would guess many conscentious Catholics woudl resent being put in such a position. We are told repeatedy that the Church is not a democracy. Is it still an autocracy after all?

    Perhaps only when the abp of Dublin and others close to the top utter a few gnomic words will events start to move.. Indeed I’m no expert but I cannot see how the Irish Catholic community as a whole could continue to tolerate such a situation. The cost of his retirement jwould be high but the cost of keeping him,is higher still.

  • wild turkey

    “We will soon learn if either the Pope or the cardinal finally rate public opinion or will try to rely on their own authority.”

    ah, c’mon Brian.

    to turn things on their head a bit, an expectation that the roman church hierarchy will ‘rate’ or consider public opinion would elicit a response similar to that Pierre Laval received when he requested to Stalin to intercede on behalf of Russian catholics and therefore gain the grace and favour of the pope

    “The Pope! How many divisions has he got? ”

    Throughout this ongoing global saga of child abuse, cover-up, denial, twisting the language like a fresh pretzel, the perspective and arising actions of the roman hierarchy is mephitic as that of Stalin.

    further discussions on obvious similarities as required, but for now


  • Alias

    Those are political issues, Brian.

    If the Cardinal is ‘guilty’ then all within the Church are equally guilty since his ‘crime’ is following Vatican protocols and procedures in due deference and obedience, just like every other reverent member.

    Oddly enough, the Vatican would dismiss him if he broke with those procedures (but then there would be no public pressure to dismiss him) but not for following them.

    It is simply absurd to think that Rome will accept his resignation.

    The other issue here is fair play: if we are to demand that people resign from employment for transgressions that happened decades ago, we’d all be out of a job – including the hypocritical deputy first minister.

  • wild turkey


    sorry guys

    above should read “any expectation”

  • Donal Davoren

    McGuinness should look to his own leader when calling for Brady to resign.

    In fact what difference is there between what Brady did and Adams did?

  • Brian Walker

    alias, This is a gloriously tridentine view but just a shade too dogmatic I feel. Poltiics with a small p atill applies. The resignation of Cardinal Law applies mutatis mutandis.

  • Granni Trixie


    Strikes me that what u are articulating is a cross community understanding which the Cardinal does not seem to have a grasp of.
    I predict that he will go at the weekend ….but he must regret that he did not do so earlier before people were clearer as to his culpability.

  • Alias

    There is no valid comparison between Law and Brady. That’s like comparing a one-sock shoplifter to Bernie Madoff. What sealed Law’s fate wasn’t politics with a small p (even under the PR-savvy Pope John Paul II) but business with a capital B. Law and the Vatican here at loggerheads about whether his archdiocese should file for bankruptcy or settle with the victims. The Vatican head the more honourable position that his archdiocese should settle rather than evade its liability.

  • Skeg oneill

    What a strange place we live in with Martin giving public and moral advice to the Cardinal!

    I never met Cardinal Brady other than watching him officiate at my daughter’s confirmation. But I can be pretty sure that the Cardinal did not commit murder nor direct murder.

    In recent times we have the cute hoors in SF and their sycophantic journalists and bloggers (take a bow Jude) telling us that Martin/Gerry know nothing about that nasty killing stuff and that it is a dirty Brit trick to suggest otherwise. It’s funny how It was always some other Provo dude that did it. The Provo cheerleader even goes so far as to suggest that Supts Breen and Buchanan and even Miss Travers were not murdered at all. As evidence he refers to LBJ, Nixon and Vietnam – I kid you not. This of course is not the “nice Jude” who appears on BBC radio to comment on the papers or books, and is unwilling to let the mask slip, but the nasty sarcastic version who rants at great length on his republican blog.

    “Strange days indeed”

  • Martin McGuinness: “I think that many Catholics, of which I am one, Catholic priests amongst whom I have many good friends and the public in general will be dismayed at these new allegations.”

    Martin works hypocrisy into a fine art – and a significant section of the public votes for members of the PRM’s political wing.

  • HeinzGuderian

    The media’s agenda is not to determine who is a fit and proper person to be a Cardinal anyway but to have an opportunity to undermine it by saying to the public “Oh look how arrogant the Church is for refusing to bow to your opinions”.

    They rape your children,(and don’t think for one minute this is a recent phenomena),and it’s the ‘medias’ fault for stirring the shit……..
    Unbelievable !!!!

  • seamus60

    They`re all shafting us, religious and political with none of them practicing what they preach.
    But why would they when they get away with it.

  • seamus60

    Nevin,,,,,Martin works hypocrisy into a fine art-

    Why wouldn`t he when the media and even his political oponents for some very very strange reason don`t contest him on it. Not a single reporter pulled him on the issue of Adamsgate. Martin is now a statement man only because it suits the set up of ruling by fooling.

  • seamus60, so long as he restricts himself to pious platitudes London and Dublin will sleep easy and the MSM will be discouraged from rocking the boat.

  • Bishop Donal McKeown has also reminded others here of the clodding of stones:

    “It’s hard to take criticism of Cardinal Brady from many people who during the Troubles were involved in state bodies, paramilitary bodies or who shared platforms with those organisations, who did huge damage to children and their families.

    “What I’m trying to say is, have we anyone who can help us see the big picture rather than just be driven by what’s a comparatively narrow question on Cardinal Brady?”

    Cardinal Brady has also extended a public apology to the victims but on the primacy:

    The cardinal said he intended to remain as primate “until I’m 75, or unless the Holy See indicated it didn’t want me to stay”.

  • dwatch

    Cardinal rejects resignation calls. last night he admitted he was wrong when he failed to tell parents that their children were being abused by Fr Brendan Smyth.

    Read more:

  • dwatch

    Notice Cardinal Brady does not admit he was wrong for failing to tell the civil authorities that these children had been abused by Fr Brendan Smyth. The fact these abused children were enforced to sign a statement promising not to tell anyone
    ( EXCEPT PRIESTS IN THE CHURCH) about their abuse by Fr B Smyth is as much a sin as sexual abuse itself.

  • Taoiseach

    The secrecy oath would have been fine if it had contributed to conviction or some canonical process which is its purpose – it’s supposed to preserve the evidence so to speak, to that witnesses don’t speak with each other and taint the proceedings – except there were no proceedings.

    As for the instinct of parents to protect their children, unfortunately the evidence in many cases is that wives protect their husbands before their children. And that parents protect their own children but don’t worry too much about others – that’s why so many parents wanted abusive priests sorted out without recourse to the police/courts.

  • dwatch

    Indeed Taoiseach, but wives & parents who protect their husbands or children are not priests or Cardinals in the RC church. Here’s another shameful report from Shropshire Star.
    ” A damning week for the Catholic church in Ireland ”