Sean Brady, the HIA, and the all too familiar problem with organized religion

Cardinal Sean Brady’s engagement with the HIA outlines a fundamental problem with organized religion: power and rank too often take precedent over a commitment to personal conscience.

While Cardinal Brady has tried to articulate it in a more sugar-coated way, what his conduct in relation to Brendan Smyth shows is that he was prepared to sacrifice his own sense of morality to preserve the power of the Catholic Church in Ireland, and enable himself to climb the Church’s ranking system through displaying an absolute commitment to orders.

Anyone with a steadfast sense of principle would have been appalled by the fact that the Church responded to widespread internal paedophilia with a power preservation strategy. Such a person would have dissented from the Church, and put the actions of somebody like Brendan Smyth on public record so that a process of scrutiny and change could take place.

Clergy like Sean Brady cannot lay claim to integrity because they placed the Church and their own personal standing within it over the sexual abuse of children. They were not outraged by a tremendous evil like the systematic sexual abuse of children to the point of taking clinical action that would potentially result in their own excommunication from the Church.

It was more important to people like Sean Brady that the Church continue to be the arbiter of social behaviour in Ireland, and that they themselves could one day ascend to a position like “Cardinal”.

The former head of the Church in Ireland informed the HIA that he was “bound” to an oath of secrecy in relation to Church findings about the actions of its staff; and that that he did not have the power to stop Brendan Smyth from expanding the victimhood of his sadistic actions.

The pressing question that arises from Cardinal Brady’s poor attempt at exonerating himself is what would have happened if he had the personal conviction to ignore bureaucratic orders and speak out?

Would God have abandoned him? Would his claim to Christianity enter disrepute? If anything, Cardinal Brady would have been strengthened in both regards; and so  the only credible conclusion we can reach is that Cardinal Brady was not willing to act against his own “Highers” simply because his own future within the Church was too precious to him.

More like a corporation than a Church, the Catholic leadership in Ireland opted to airbrush rather than aggressively pursue the satanic behaviours occurring at every level; and “rising stars” within the Church like Sean Brady ultimately chose their professional ambitions over doing what whatever necessary to protect young Catholics against monsters like Brendan Smyth.

Judging by the ill-advised grin displayed during this last’s HIA proceedings, Sean Brady is clearly a man that is very pleased with his life work – in particular ascending to the second highest office within the Catholic Church.

But while the aging congregations that sit before Cardinal Brady will continue to revere him as a man that is close to God, history will write his legacy as a man that fatally overlooked paedophilia when it was staring him in the face.

  • barnshee

    All corporation members try to protect the organisation.Its the nature of the beast– Its easy to be wise in retrospect and yes its reprehensible for people to put personal advancement before disclosure but hey society is full of it

  • Susan Russam

    Interesting piece – got me thinking “absolute commitment to orders” the other institution (leaving aside the godliness bit) where there is an absolute commitment to orders tends to be the military and my thinking (notwithstanding the unconscionable failure of those orders to consider children at all never mind their needing protection from sexual predators) is that there is only an occasional Chelsea Manning and many John Brady’s Chelsea’s in jail and retired Cardinal Brady continues to hold onto the altar rail.

  • willieric

    Narcissistic behaviour. Never wrong.

  • Darren Litter

    Thanks for your input, Barnshee.

    I would argue that a global religious institution like the Catholic Church should not be afforded the moral leniency of a mere corporation.

  • oldgit

    Brady should not just have been reviled, he should have been prosecuted. No wonder the church in Ireland he sought to protect has declined so rapidly,

  • kensei

    Some truth, but too fierce, I think. Social and organisational pressure comes to bear in all walks of life and invades decision making and warps perception in all sorts of peculiar ways. Groupthink is a danger for any organisation too. It really takes an exceptional person to go against received wisdom, his peers and his superiors. Cardinal Brady deserves censure but his failings are all too human.

    Besides, if you really truly believe that reputational damage to the Church would cause all sorts of other evils, then it is both easy and tempting to convince yourself of the need for unpleasant actions to protect it. Cardinal Brady and the rest of the Bishops and clergy responsible’s punishment is that ultimately, their actions damaged the Church in a real, deeper and more lasting sense than doing the right thing would have.

  • Dan

    Brady should be in court

  • Celtlaw

    Any large organization discovering misconduct in its ranks that would subject it to major if not fatal financial exposure would act in the same way. The more telling question then is what did that organization do internally to compensate the victim(s) and to ensure that the miscreants never abused again.

  • Darren Litter

    I think you would have a point if Cardinal Brady’s actions were in relation to Church finances and not the sexual abuse of children.

    I do not at all agree that there is anything “exceptional” about acting with the virtue of the faith one claims to adhere to i.e. personally concluding that “a representative of God” would be more concerned with the abuse of children than institutional/personal interests.

  • Darren Litter

    It is too simplistic to view the Church as a conventional, large organization.

    It is a religious institution that claims the mantle of a God – and so it should be expected to observe a greater standard of morality than say, the 1970s BBC.

  • Isabel Sinton

    In the military, An order which is unlawful not only does not need to be obeyed, but obeying such an order can result in criminal prosecution of the one who obeys it. Military courts uphold this.
    What a shame the military has a moral compass and the church lost theirs.

  • Isabel Sinton

    There are two seemingly different things going on that are really intertwined, Bardy and most of his bishop buddies complain and whine about the lack of vocations, as they set themselves up as holy, virtuous role models. Anyone with more than three brain cells doesn’t aspire to be a hypocrite or align themselves with pedo-protectors. They are shooting themselves in the foot.

  • Croiteir

    are you sure that they set themselves up as holy and virtuous? They regularly say that they are not.

  • Carl Mark

    Oh well that’s ok then, but most big organizations don’t claim to be the one true faith and attempt to instruct us in morality, nor do they claim to practice celibacy.
    The Question here is how did such a corrupt group of people get into the position were children in there care were abused, and why are those who covered up for them not in front of a jury for dereliction of duty.

  • Peter L

    It’s time the Secular media stopped addressing this issue as one of paedophilia and call it a homosexual issue.There is an abundance of evidence for this,the last being the Jon Jay report.

    Over 80% of abusive priests when interviewed by police said they were homosexuals and nearly 85% of those abused were males aged between 11 and 21 years old.

  • mac tire

    It is paedophilia! The victims were children. Nothing to do with homosexuality, they were crimes.
    If it was homosexuality, why didn’t these men not link up with men or other priests of a like mind? No, they sought kids. There was a reason for that.

    The link you provided is 14 years old – and pertains to America.

  • Peter L

    The link I provided is 14 years old and it was the most in-depth and thorough study into this crisis.

    “If it was homosexuality, why didn’t these men not link up with men or other priests of a like mind?”

    Most if not all of them did link up with men as well,the report also shows this.If this is nothing to do with homosexuality then why were those who were interviewed and convicted nearly all homosexuals by an extremely large percentage.?Over 80% percent in fact.

    Also,read the report on when the crisis peaked,it happened at a time when the Church allowed homosexuals into the seminaries,from the 50’s onwards.

  • mac tire

    Regardless, this is an old report confined to one area of the world.
    You declare that people should “[stop] addressing this issue as one of paedophilia…”
    It IS child sexual abuse. No two ways about it. The fact that you refuse to see this is disturbing but you would obviously rather blame gays.

    “Members of disliked minority groups are often stereotyped as representing a danger to the majority’s most vulnerable members…
    In recent years, antigay activists have routinely asserted that gay people are child molesters.”

    “The truth is the vast majority of pedophiles and child molesters are in fact, heterosexual males. Pedophilia is the sexual attraction of an adult to a child. Homosexuality is the sexual attraction of an adult to an adult of the same gender.”

    Your American friends you like to quote think differently to you.

  • Peter L

    I’m sorry you choose to ignore the fact that homosexuals make up 3-5% of the population yet over 80% of the abusive priests were homosexuals.It was the abusive priests testimony that confirms this.

    The Jon Jay report was a fully independent report and your links are from pro-homosexual sites.Take a look around the “stop the abuse” link and it’s obviously not very independent,but,a pro homosexual site.The other one is obviously a Church hating site.

  • Darren Litter

    First of all, as Mac Tire noted, it is rather dubious to cite a US study into child sex abuse within the US Catholic Church in relation to a debate about the Irish Catholic Church.

    But to address your interpretation of the report regardless:

    The offending priests identifying sexually as homosexual does not negate their paedophilic or hebephelic actions. “Paedophile” is not a legal expression (Google defines it as being a person who “is sexually attracted to children” – note: anyone under the age of 18 in the UK and Ireland is legally deemed a “child”), but if somebody sexually abuses a minor then they are a child sex offender, irrespective of general sexual preference.

    For instance, if a heterosexual engages in the sexual abuse of a minor, is the issue “heterosexual” as opposed to being about child sex abuse? Of course it isn’t.

    Although the Church has historically attempted to construe otherwise, homosexuality is not a blanket term for sexual acts against males.

    Secondly, your words (dangerously) suggest consent. If this was a “homosexual issue” as you argue, then we would be discussing members of the priesthood and legally eligible members of the congregation making the decision to have homosexual relations.

    We are not. We are talking about the sexual abuse of children (both male and female). And if the 18-21 demographic found in the US report applies to Ireland, then we are also talking about the sexual abuse of adults.

    In summation: This is an issue of sexual abuse, nothing else.

  • mac tire

    You have quite clearly attempted to deny that most priests engaged in child sexual abuse by asserting it is to do with homosexuality. (Of course, this issue is not confined to Catholicism alone).

    I was brought up in the Catholic faith. I am not Gay. Your attempts to redefine child sexual abuse by some priests and their obvious sexual interest in children as homosexuality disgusts me.

    The first link is not a “pro homosexual site”. It’s a stop the abuse of children site – no matter who does it, no matter the sexuality of those who do it.

    The second link is to University of California.

    You can point out the bias you accuse both of, I assume? But then again, you are likely to redefine ‘bias’, judging from your previous posts.

  • Brian O’Neill

    “[T]he researchers found no statistical evidence that gay priests were more likely than straight priests to abuse minors—a finding that undermines a favorite talking point of many conservative Catholics. The disproportionate number of adolescent male victims was about opportunity, not preference or pathology, the report states.

    What’s more, researchers note that the rise in the number of gay priests from the late 1970s onward actually corresponded with “a decreased incidence of abuse—not an increased incidence of abuse.”

  • Chris Jones

    …and where it breaks the criminal law it should be prosecuted

  • Chris Jones

    What do you mean ‘its a homosexual issue’?

    Is rape a heterosexual issue?

    The reality is that whatever the relationship its about abuse of power and the feeling of omnipotence this gives the abuser who has control of the victim

  • Chris Jones

    Yes….and surprisingly for something that Church says wasn’t coordinated across Europe the standard rate for an Altar Boy was €30k provided he signed a confidentiality agreement!!!

    PS the 9th Commandment still seems to lost down the back of the Vatican sofa

  • Granni Trixie

    We will never know what kept the likes of Brady from seeing the blindingly obvious for so long. However, we are where we are and hopefully he is representative of a recognition that how the church dealt with child abuse was additionally wrong if not illegal. The church still seems however not to fully grasp reasons why people turned against them. I say this because it still concerns itself for instance with promoting its view that SSM is wrong – it’s rich that the church finds itself a bedfellow with the DUP.
    If only they would each apply themselves to more appropriate matters such as relief of poverty,health and policing systems!

  • Chris Jones

    Those are two utterly meaningless statistics. They are utterly logically disconnected and you band them together to appear to make some sort of homophobic point – though what it is I am not sure.

    I can only assume that you are either

    trolling or


    or both