Does it Matter if Cardinal Sean Brady Resigns? The Future of the Irish Catholic Church

image Cardinal Sean Brady, and the Irish Catholic Church, have claimed that it is ‘not fair to judge him by the child protection standards of today.’

Amid the cries that Brady should resign, the Irish Catholic Church has issued a statement ‘clarifying’ his role in the sex abuse case in which he was involved in asking two young boys to sign oaths of secrecy.

A BBC report summarises the latest statement:

The church said that at the end of both interviews, the boys were "asked to confirm by oath the truthfulness of their statements and that they would preserve the confidentiality of the interview process."

The statement said the intention of the confidentiality oath was "to avoid potential collusion in the gathering of the inquiry’s evidence" and to ensure that the process was "robust enough to withstand challenge by the perpetrator, Fr Brendan Smyth".

The statement said that a week later Fr Brady passed his findings to Bishop McKiernan and in turn the bishop reported the findings to the local head of Fr Smyth’s religious order, the Norbertines.

I don’t think that appealing to people’s sense of fairness is going to win Brady or the Irish Catholic Church much sympathy.

Was it ‘fair’ for children to be treated as they were? Is it ‘fair’ that the Irish Catholic Church continues to put its own institutional interests before those of the victims of clerical sex abuse?

On his blog, BBC presenter William Crawley says that 80 per cent of the text messages the BBC received yesterday during Talk Balk’s discussion about Cardinal Brady were hostile.

In today’s Irish Times, Patsy McGarry’s commentary is headlined: ‘Church in Ireland sinking as rot goes right to the top.’

McGarry’s analysis is harsh and incisive:

But whether Cardinal Brady resigns or does not is really a moot point. Similarly with the resignations, offered or otherwise, of bishops Moriarty, Walsh, Field, Drennan or Murray. It doesn’t matter anymore. It is too late.

The Catholic Church in Ireland, as we have known it, is seriously damaged and probably beyond repair. It is sinking and sinking fast. And, as indicated from recent revelations on the European continent, the Irish Catholic Church may have company on that journey down.

And what seems to be missing in this process of decline and fall is any awareness of the truly great damage all of this is doing to Christianity itself, whether in Ireland and abroad.

Like McGarry, I am amazed that the leadership of the church continues to seem so oblivious to the damage that it is doing to Christianity – whether that’s Christianity in the form of the young Christian victims, the Christians who are currently struggling to come to terms with what their church has done, or the Church institutions themselves … from which many people are simply walking away.

Yesterday, in a comment on an earlier post on my blog, Tim Moore, wrote:

Many people have made up their mind about the Catholic Church. Whether it’s active rejection of the Church altogether, a defensive position, or a demand for change in the Church, new stories and comment in the media now have less power to inform people’s views, be it strengthening resolve or changing minds, because the Catholic Church has so far managed to avoid further major action resulting in change. Resignations of various figures have yet to show that the church has visibly removed its clericalist “culture of secrecy”.

As Moore rightly observes, the Irish Catholic Church’s endless reams of statements, expressions of condemnation, and promises of repentance mean little if most people think that the Irish Catholic Church hasn’t changed.

McGarry also notes that the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has been curiously silent since Christmas. Archbishop Martin is one of the few men in a position of high clerical authority in Ireland who still has some measure of moral authority because of his previous statements on abuse.

McGarry speculates that Archbishop Martin has been deliberately sidelined and says,

He must rediscover his mojo. Otherwise the Irish Catholic Church has no future.

I don’t agree that the future of Irish Catholic Christianity hinges on one man. I think there are plenty of lay Catholics and good priests out there with a vital, active faith, who love Jesus, and who believe with all their hearts that the justice that is at the centre of the Christian message will ultimately win the day.

With or without one particular man’s leadership, those Catholics can shape the future of their church.

But with each passing day, the leaders of the Irish Catholic Church lose a little bit more of their flock’s respect.

By the time the Pope gets around to writing his pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland, will there be anyone left to read it?

9 thoughts on “Does it Matter if Cardinal Sean Brady Resigns? The Future of the Irish Catholic Church”

  1. I always wondered why the Church leaders never came out and made a clean sweep of it and got their house in order with regard to child sex abuse. It is becoming clear the reason for this is that the church leaders were very much implicit in maintaining this culture of silence and denial. Cardinal Brady refuses to understand that his moral authority is gone, we are not talking about taking money out of the collection box here, he needs to have a come to Jesus moment and do the right thing. The CC got their wires crossed, if they had protected children and the truth the same way they protect the institution of the Church we would not be in this mess. Why would anyone want to belong to a church who principles were 180 degrees out and still has the same management team? My thoughts go with the good priests and nuns who are tarred with the same brush, they are also the victims of this culture of silence and denial, however it is time they stood up and let their voices be heard.

  2. 2 Corinthians 4

    4:1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

    Let te church leaders read what scripture has to say!

    Luke 12:2-3
    2 For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.

    Num 32:24
    Be sure your sin will find you out.

    nothing to add!!

  3. Although this is being reported as the recent discovery of damning evidence against the Cardinal, the fact is that is neither news or a “revelation”. This has been in the public domain at least as far back as August 10th 1997, when Declan White wrote about it in the Sunday Mirror. This “story” broke while Brendan Smyth was still alive and before Sean Brady had taken his seat as a cardinal.

    Patsy McGarry knows fine well that the story has been out for 12 1/2 years, but he doesn’t let that get in the way of his timeline. Episcopal blood seems very much to be the flavour of the season for the Irish media and I fully expect that if Cardinal Brady doesn’t resign (and I hope he doesn’t), Diarmuid Martin will be the next target.

  4. Patsy McGarry’s comment article in today’s Irish Times (March 16) expressed some of the points I was trying to get across much more eloquently and directly than I could!

    I still maintain that the experience of the last few months has shown how futile resignations have been in bringing about any cultural change to the Irish Catholic Church. Nevertheless, I believe the position of Cardinal Seán Brady as Primate of all Ireland is untenable.

    The Will and Testament blog notes that a correspondent to the “Talkback” programme compares Brady’s dilemma with the recent resignation of German Bishop Margot Kässmann. Kässmann resigned as a Lutheran Bishop and chair of the Council of Lutheran Churches in Germany (EKD) on 25 February after police on the previous Saturday found her to be over the legal blood-alcohol limit after driving through a red light.

    The speed of Margot Kässmann’s resignation and her admission of fault set a remarkable contrast with the response of the Irish bishops: Campaigner Andrew Madden writes in today’s Irish Independent (16 March) “We were treated to the sight of one bishop after another attempting to minimise his role and refer to the [Murphy] report as containing nothing that should cause him to resign”.

    Parishoners were asked by Bavarian Public Radio (BR) for their reaction to Kässmann’s resignation: the featured responses were broadly supportive of her departure, but maintained respect for her achievements. Kässmann enjoyed a high profile in popular media in Germany, including regular appearances on Germany’s many late-night talk shows. It is interesting to note that the resignation took place over a telephone conference; no elaborate regal meetings in Maynooth or Rome here.

    I’m still not shocked by Seán Brady’s role in abuse cover-up, but I am startled by the juxtaposition between his and Margot Käsmmann’s responses to accusations of wrong-doing, to which the “Talk Back” listener remarks how much more serious Brady’s situation is.

  5. I think what becomes clearer each day in all of this is the absolute lack of empathy for victims of sex abuse by the church. Each duck and dive is a further indication of their priority, hanging on to power. Fair Catholic Church – oxymoron, methinks!

  6. I agree, Michelle.

    In relation to your comment, here’s a bit more from Andrew Madden, which was quoted in today’s Irish Times (18 March). I laughed out loud when I first saw this, because Madden again hits the nail on the head right on.

    “If the Catholic Church in Ireland is to be led by a man who accurately reflects it in its current state, then perhaps it is only right and fitting that it be led by a man who has participated in the cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by a priest”.

  7. While there may be priests who do not adhere to the CC’s closed shop policy of denial, deceit, abuse and power, their silence is deafening! This boys club by its very nature is dangerous, introspective, abusive, dogmatic, deceitful and believes its own propaganda: its absolute infallibility!!!!!!!!!!!1

    This creation is now eating itself up from the inside out and from top to bottom. It is only a matter of when and not if it will self destruct. What then? God alone knows! All that has been perpetrated in the name of God!!!!!!!!!!!! Decent people will no longer tolerate the monstrous dealings of a secret organisation who masquerade as spiritual leaders???!!!

    As a Catholic mother I find the whole disgusting thing gut turning and mind blowing. Sean Brady MUST go along with thousands of others. How dare they present a concerned face now, when they have been caught red-handed! Too late to close the stable door when the horse has well and truly bolted! They are not above the law of the land, never mind the morality of all the abuse and cover ups.

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely! CC is a perfect example. All these crimes in the name of God? Blasphemy of the highest order!!!! Silence signals consent. The CC is no longer dealing with ignorant, cowered, peasantry. Buyer beware!

  8. If the CC are no longer dealing with ‘ignorant, cowered, peasantry’ then where are the protests, the grass roots change? As far as I can see it’s business as usual, and there’s a good chance the whole thing will blow over, repellent as that might be.

    Perhaps we will all go along like before because there are no lay Catholic people of standing prepared to put their heads above the hierarchical wall. The CC can only renew itself from within the laity. Are there men and women of sufficient calibre prepared to take a stand? I wonder.

  9. I don’t expect you will see people marching on the streets of Ireland, but they are marching! Out of the Catholic Church as fast as the can. The Latest statistics for regular CC goers in Ireland is approximately 3%. Now that is a very effeective protest, don’t you think? I bet the money hungry CC miss all that easy cash. And what did we (the Irish people) get in return? Abuse of our Children and us collectively.

    The Irish people have moved on and I hope they keep moving until the CC is a non-entity in Irish life, and good riddens!

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