Monday, May 7, 2012

The Sad Irish Abuse Story Adds Another Chapter

This video is the first part of BBC's The World program mentioned in the article.  The links to the other three parts are at the end of each segment. 

The saga of Cardinal Sean Brady of Ireland is both sad and illustrative of what happens when good men participate in a rotten system.  They lose their humanity.  They become robots in and to the system.  The following article by Alf McCreary of the Belfast Times poignantly makes this point.

Clearly Cardinal Brady’s time at helm is almost up

Alf McCreary - Belfast Times - 5/7/2012
One of the saddest sights this week has been watching Cardinal Sean Brady trying to defend the indefensible. He is a good man caught up in a public struggle for the soul of the Irish Catholic Church, and he is now well out of his depth.
Two years ago when the story broke about his involvement in a secret meeting with a young victim of the paedophile Brendan Smyth, I was one of the few commentators to suggest publicly that Cardinal Brady should resign.
Even then it was obvious to me that the game was up, and afterwards a number of prominent people told me privately that they agreed with my view.

However, Cardinal Brady chose to struggle on, in an attempt to spearhead reforms as a “wounded healer”. He has tried to do so with dignity and courage, and his many friends inside and outside the Catholic Church wince for this decent human being who became the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The latest important revelations in the BBC’s This World programme have put further pressure on Cardinal Brady, and his involvement in the Brendan Smyth scandal is symbolic of the Catholic Church’s failure to deal properly with the cancer of clerical child sex abuse.

Cardinal Brady has chosen to stay on and to fight his corner. This does not surprise me. Whatever he may feel personally, you can be sure that the Vatican is watching every move.
Even if the cardinal decides to hand in his resignation, I doubt if the Vatican will accept it just now. Sean Brady is a high profile scapegoat for an institutional failure that goes right to the top.
Of course he should have done much more in 1975 when he discovered that young people were being abused. However, he was no better and no worse than his peers in a system where no-one had the courage to by-pass the Catholic Church and go straight to the police and the children’s parents.
Lest any one is tempted to take a holier-than-thou attitude, we all have known of situations where it was better not to sacrifice a career by making a stand and to push the problem up the line.

When Sean Brady’s superiors failed to put pressure on the relevant church authorities in 1975, the problem got much worse, and now that church is deservedly reaping the whirlwind.
My guess is that Cardinal Brady, now 72, will be kept in post until after the important International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin next month, and that sooner rather than later he will retire, or be retired.

However, the cardinal is under immense pressure and his position seems precarious but whether Sean Brady goes or stays in the short term is beside the point. The major problem is that the Catholic Church in Ireland has badly lost its way and has betrayed its people.

By trying to censor a popular and perceptive priest like Fr Brian D’Arcy and others in the Republic, the Vatican is showing that autocracy still rules all. But did any one really expect a hardliner like Cardinal Ratzinger to become a ‘liberal’ Pope Benedict overnight?
However, the most damning indictment this week was the Irish Church’s claim that in 1975 there were no church or state guidelines about dealing with allegations of child abuse. That is a total cop-out, from an institution which is supposed to base its existence on the teachings of Christ, who is quoted in St Matthew’s Gospel with this devastating judgment:

“Whoso shall offend one of these little ones who believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
That really says it all.

The train wreck known as the Catholic Church in Ireland, just underwent another derailment. This one seriously implicates it's conductor, Cardinal Sean Brady. The above linked video is the BBC documentary which has precipitated another earthquake in the Irish Church. What's been especially sad to me is watching Cardinal Brady and his PR people use every spin they can to keep the real truth at arms length. That truth is Fr Sean Brady, back in 1975 risked his own excommunication if he went to the authorities or the parents of the children he knew were actively being raped by serial pedophile Brendan Smyth. "Crimen Sollicitationis" was in full effect. The penalty for violating these oaths was automatic excommunication and it applied not only to the two witnesses Cardinal Brady interviewed but also himself. This insured the boys suffered in silence without any outside support, including from each other, and that Brendan Smyth was free to continue abusing the very children for whom Cardinal Brady had been given both names and addresses. Brady was under this silence until 2010 when the Vatican finally changed it's Canon Laws to free investigators and bishops to release information to those with a need to know. Hence Cardinal Brady said nothing of any substance about this incident when it first came to light in 2008. He was still under obligation to honor the code of secrecy.

In the interests of adhering to Papal demands, and protecting both the Church and his own soul, Cardinal Brady kept his silence while dozens more children were raped by Brendan Smyth. At least a dozen of those were US children because Smyth was transferred to the US by the Norbertine Order just as police in Northern Ireland were finally getting on to him. I just had this really difficult time putting together the fact most of this could have ended in 1975 if one Fr Sean Brady had not been so vested in self serving Catholic Canon Law and protecting his own soul and career. But he was far from alone as one wag pointed out in a comment: "The mental reservation is getting full. Another inmate is coming." It's time to close this particular reservation and let the full truth out.


  1. Jerry Slevin's account of the criminal trial in Philly indicates that we are headed for our own version of the train wreck. It's sad to see it.

  2. I was a mandated first reporter and I would have lost my job and carreer if I had known of child abuse and had failed to report it. I have had to report child abuse and did so. I cannot understand how a caring human being can allow abuse to happen to the innocent. Searcher

  3. Those who allow sexual abuse to happen to the innocent, are not caring people anymore. They have a new identity in a very real sense. They become robots, just as Colleen has stated.


  4. Here, in Kansas City, the prosecutor has expanded the charges against Bishop Robert Finn to include all abuse allegations made to diocese - from his arrival and before- some documents being held in secret. I hope the court will order this.

    1. I guess this will depend on how many incriminating documents were found in the diocesan file that weren't dealt with before Bishop Finn showed up. My own Diocese of Helena has been hit with multiple class action suits by Native Americans who were abused in Montana residential schools. Most of the abuse is on the heads of the Jesuits and The Ursuline sisters.

      I have been waiting for this shoe to drop for a decade or more. The abuse in Native residential schools was horrific. It was on multiple levels. It wasn't just the actual abuse on children in the schools, but the destruction of family units on the reservations. The level of sexual abuse on reservations is mind numbing, and there are real reasons to believe this behavior was learned behavior in residential schools. This is very much the same as clerical abuse being learned behavior in Catholic seminaries.

    2. In some ways the long wait for justice will ensure that, if that day finally comes, the consequences will be that much more severe.

    3. Anon, I can't fathom how justice will ever be ensured for Native Americans. It is truly humbling to sit in the presence of some of their Holy Men who speak truthfully about the need to forgive and move forward because that's the only way real justice can be obtained. It's very much in the same vein Bishop Tutu speaks of the reconciliation process in South Africa. Some injustices are just so unjust, forgiveness is the only way forward. There just isn't any recompense that could really change anything.

  5. "However, he was no better and no worse than his peers in a system where no-one had the courage to by-pass the Catholic Church and go straight to the police and the children’s parents.
    Lest any one is tempted to take a holier-than-thou attitude, we all have known of situations where it was better not to sacrifice a career by making a stand and to push the problem up the line."

    ## So - either Irish Catholicism in particular, or Catholicism generally, has a demoralising result. The whole episode is a damning indictment of one or the other. A healthy religion would not require Christians to deaden themselves to Christian ethical imperatives.

    In addition, this episode makes a nonsense of the Church's infallibility in morals.

    1. I agree rat. I don't see how is can be spun any other way. The Vatican can't have it both ways. Either it's infallible in dogma and morally bankrupt to insure the infallibility, or it's not at all Christian.

    2. You're both talking a lot of hot air re: infallibility.

    3. No we're not Invictus. Maintaining infallibility has consequences. On of those consequences is you give up the right to be wrong. Pope Benedict has never admitted the Vatican or he himself has done wrong. He blamed the entire Irish situation on Irish bishops, and of course those bishops were following Vatican orders. I really feel badly for Cardinal Brady. I bet dollars to donuts right now he wishes he had never sold his soul for his red beanie.

    4. "You're both talking a lot of hot air re: infallibility."

      ## As to that, the Church claims to be infallible in its moral teaching. So far, fair enough. The problem is, that if the Church cannot see that concealing the molestation of the young is a sin, its claim to infallibility in moral teaching collapses. For Fr. Brady to be required, on pain of excommunication, to be silent on this matter, is very bad. It means that the Church has chosen to put its reputation above the needs of its members. And that inverts the priorities in the gospels: for human need comes before the Law. The Law - or in our case, the Church - is evacuated of meaning if its reputation is more important than the well-being of its members. By trying to protect itself, it has lost itself. As any of us might.

    5. Pope John XXII rejected papal infallibility, stating he didn't need to be held accountable to all the statement of prior popes. Smart man.

      So an infallible pope rejects infallibility. I think that about covers the issue, and I'm feeling fairly infallible about that.

      Matt Connolly

      PS Church response is that John XXII did not promulgate that infallibly. So again, the perfection of the papacy depends upon the interpretation of the hierarchy. We can talk ourselves into anything if we wish, and perfect leadership is so much easier than listening for the whisper of the Spirit.

    6. Sorry, I will rephrase, as my point has been overlooked.

      "Until such time as the Holy See incorporates approval of child abuse into the teachings of the Church, you are all talking a lot of hot air re: infallibility."

    7. Then let me rephrase, too. Our leadership does not look or act like Christ. The 2200 page rulebook does not create faith, but instead invites a fastidious judgmental ranking inimical to what Jesus taught the Apostles. The casual, casuistic and caustic coverup of child abuse is only the latest act in a long running story. Infallibilty didn't make sense in the 1200's, was railroaded through despite great misgivings in the 1800's, and is being used now to keep the obedient from seeking on their own.

      Obedience is a good thing, but not to this hierarchy. See Brady's story for that. And if you agree that Pope Alexander VI shouldn't have been obeyed, then you have to allow us to question today.

      Arguing infallibility in the face of such error and evil gives people more reason to turn their backs on faith, which you and I agree is the only thing worth living for. And I think they are correct in doing so.

      Matt Connolly

    8. Infallibility is fundamental to the faith. Just because we didn't codify it until later doesn't change the necessity of it.

      And - as I said - this doctrine is irrelevant to the complaints that are being made here. It's just hot air.

      People are taking the doctrine out of context, and consequently talking confused nonsense.

    9. Invictus - (Papal) infallibility is fundamental to the faith.

      Pope John XXII (1324) - Papal infallibility is the work of the devil, the father of all lies.

      I kid you not. Argue with your infallible pope, and then let me know about confused nonsense.

      Matt Connolly

    10. Invictus, The very notion of papal "infallibility" is a conjured up man-made corporate scheme, in much the same way as the Supreme Court's view of "People" being corporations. The entire purpose of the very idea of "infallibility" is false, has no roots from the Gospels and is just as credible a notion as those who believe the Earth is flat.


    11. Matt,
      Please, don't argue about these doctrines until you have at least some basic understanding of what it is that they mean!
      Infallibility - as most catechised persons understand - does not apply to everything a Pope says, but applies only to what is discerned and put forward ex cathedra. If your little game here had any relevance, then every time a pontiff expressed the view that an apple was better than an orange, apples would become better than oranges and it would be necessary for all Catholics to believe it.
      As it is, you're either confused or dishonest, and you're contributing to the useless hot air being written on the matter.

      Buy a Catechism? If you're not too cagey about your address, I could pay for and have one posted to you. Alternatively, they're not very expensive so you could buy one yourself, or your diocese may even have some available for free.

    12. But you are not getting our point. If papal infallibility in practice was truly only in effect in ex cathedra statements I would agree with your comment. Unfortunately the language around such things as Pius XII syllabus of errors, Cardinal Ratzinger's defense of Ordinatio Sarcedotalis, and statements around abortion and homosexuality are soooo strongly worded that it's difficult to see how Catholics aren't supposed to take these encyclicals and letters as falling in the realm of infallible statements. Ratzinger even wrote the word when it came to women priests, and the qualifications for priesthood are supposed to be disciplines, not doctrine or dogma.

      To be honest, I truly think the traditionalists don't understand infallibility the way you have written in the above comment. Matt and I are dealing with the perception, not the catechetical reality.

    13. If you're worried by strong statements, you're worried by them. It's not the end of the world. Probably they are strongly worded for a reason, and so should be given very serious consideration. And if you struggle with part of a speech or letter by a bishop, cardinal, or pontiff, then that's just how it is.
      It's important to not get confused, and to risk treating everything any pope has ever said in any capacity as an infallible statement. That would be very confusing and is not good practice.

    14. Invictus, no amount of logic will change your mind. You're stuck in a feedback loop, where the Church is God's, so the church is right, so if you oppose it you are wrong, maybe evil, at least confused, and certainly not rightly formed. It allows marginalization of the oppressed, makes a mockery of piety as well as a true evangelization. I know how circular logic feels, and I hope you can work your way past it. It just galls me that the church wantonly leads you there.

      Until your God is big enough to encompass logic, I can't follow him (God doesn't have to agree with me, but logic does). Until the church re-learns humility and compassion, it cannot grow. Until you realize that faithful people come in vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch, and (especially) rocky road, you're spinning your wheels here.

      And I'm not confused. I'm truthful to what I see and hopefully humble to how much I really know.

    15. Matt,
      "Until your God is big enough to encompass logic, I can't follow him (God doesn't have to agree with me, but logic does). Until the church re-learns humility and compassion, it cannot grow. Until you realize that faithful people come in vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch, and (especially) rocky road, you're spinning your wheels here."
      That's what we call rhetoric, and it has no content, and so no place here.

      I wasn't using any "circular logic" when I try to express to you the definition of the doctrine of papal infallibility. I'm not even using logic. I'm just explaining the doctrine.
      The contrast between the doctrine and the stuff you've been typing here is enough to demonstrate your misuse of the idea of infallibility, which was my intention.

    16. "I'm not even using logic. I'm just explaining the doctrine."


    17. Last comment on this topic. I am well aware of the scriptural passages from where the doctrine of infallibility was derived. On that level, used with discretion, I can assent, but it's when the doctrine is misused that I have really serious issues.

      Jesus gave the power of binding and loosening to the Church. I can get on board with that, but I use a completely different reason for understanding this truth than the Church teaches. JPII comes out as Pope, Ratzinger states in his letter affirming JPII's teaching on women's ordination that Catholics should consider JPII's teaching infallible on this issue. Well OK, except JPII's reasoning was the Church had no authority to change this discipline. That contradicts Jesus direct statement about binding and loosening. Popes can't have it both ways. They either can or they can't. If this issue had been processed through the sensis fidelium, the CHURCH, JPII might have had to rethink his position. Infallibility is vested in the CHURCH, not the Pope and not the dicasteries of the Vatican.

    18. Invictus - I have a Catechism and don't really ever intend to ever read it, at least not in my lifetime. It is interesting to note that it fell apart when I started reading it years ago. Cagey or not, I wouldn't give you my address. And, truly, I have much better things to do with my time.

      I think the thing that annoys me about the Church sometimes is the constant squabbling over different notions, dissecting minutia, and yet I can understand that some might find enjoyment from that sort of thing. I do not. Life is too short. Not my calling. But you are free to do your thing.

      Happy reading and thank you for your generous offer though. Thanks, but no thanks.


    19. Colkoch,
      A very useful post indeed, thank you!
      I can better understand your confusion now. I'd assumed in my pessimism that your position existed only because you'd been in some way persuaded to accept protestant doctrines, but it seems to be a much more innocent and understandable misunderstanding - and I can't really hold that against anyone.

      As you demonstrate, there can be an apparent ambiguity in the Church's God-given mandate to "bind and loose" in its refusal on one hand to give ground on (for example) the ordination of women or establishment of same-sex marriages, whilst on the other hand making accommodation for (for example) both celibate priests and married priests.

      I'll try to explain how this is the case.

      The mandate to bind and loose was given to the Church with its remit to clarify and illuminate its teachings, part of its remit to give objective instruction.
      Naturally, though, such authority to bind and loose can't extend to defining a lie as a truth, because God is Truth. In this way, it is fair to permit married or celibate priests because both of these have been truly instituted by Christ and carried forward by his Church.
      In this way, even the power to "bind and loose" can't extend to defining blue as red, or an apple as an orange, because those things are a fundamental reality which we find in the world itself. The Church (I think rightly) considers that it cannot establish marriage between people of the same sex, because the Bible, the life of Christ, and the faith of the Church all show this to be a contradiction of fundamental reality.

      It is not that there are some things "too hot" for the Church to dare to touch, or that the Church is prevented by bias from binding or loosing any particular thing, but that the Church's mandate is to constantly and faithfully express truths...not to turn them on their head in response to political pressure, however great.

    20. Butterfly,

      These are not minutiae, for sure! If one is to believe in God, and in the God expressed through Christianity and Judaism before it, then one is faced with a God who places certain clear expectations on us, and makes us certain particular gifts and promises.

      Would the disciples ever have been able to take up their crosses and follow Him if they regarded the things He taught them as 'irrelevant little details'?
      Questions like "What is marriage for?" "What is the Church for?" "Who was Jesus?" "What is he calling us to?" "How does he ask us to do that?"

      Life is never too short for those questions, because the less life one has left, the more pressing those answers become.

      Imagine if the disciples had your own uncaring attitude.


    21. Invictus, you are twisting what I said and it seems to me you are uncaring.

      What is the Church for Invictus? Is it for harboring pedophiles?

      What is marriage for? Is it for men to treat their wives like crap, like Newt Gingrich, and since he wasn't married in the Catholic Church he didn't need to get an annulment?

      Who was Jesus? Are you kidding me?

      What is he calling us to do? Do you really think I haven't asked that question before?

      How does he ask us to do that? Is the answer in the Catechism? Or do have all the answers for everybody?

    22. Regarding the question What is the Church for?

      Great question. Is it for abusing power? Abusing people? Aligning with fascist governments? Is it for spreading lies about sexuality?

      You know I could go on, Invictus.

      Perhaps the better question might be WHAT SHOULD THE CHURCH BE FOR?

    23. And also, What is marriage for?

      I always thought it was about two people loving each other. How often we fail. Does your Catechism tell the men that women are to be subordinate to their husbands, even to the point of being submissive to abuse? That men are the "authority" over women?

      What does the Catechism say?


    24. "I always thought it was about two people loving each other. How often we fail. Does your Catechism tell the men that women are to be subordinate to their husbands, even to the point of being submissive to abuse? That men are the "authority" over women?

      What does the Catechism say?

      That picture of marriage is an old style protestant one. The Catechism describes it very differently.

      If you went to Mass, you might pick these things up from homilies or something. If you just shout abuse from outside, without taking a mature serious look at what the Church actually teaches, you're condemning yourself to an endless cycle of this kind of bitterness.

      I don't think that's quite what Jesus had in mind for you.


    25. No Invictus, that description of marriage more fully describes the Catholic understanding most of us boomers grew up in and experienced. Many many women were counseled by their parish priests to stay in hugely abusive marriages 'for the sake of the children". Which is doubly sad since those children were also being abused.

      In this case, you are the one who does not know what you are talking about. My father was a saint of a man, but I also know many people whose daddy was an abusive son of a bitch and whose mommies stayed and took it on the chin because they were told to by their priests. Catholic teaching may have changed, but not because clergy suddenly got pastoral, but because society moved to take marital abuse out of the closet, and as is usual, the Church followed along at the tail end.

    26. Well, if you were miscatechised, that is very sad. Even as far back as Saint Augustine, the Church has taught of marriage as a uniting of equals, far removed from the Roman idea of marriage as a political and economic exercise in the transfer of women/chattels.

      'Therefore married persons owe one another not only the faith of their sexual intercourse itself, for the begetting of children, which is the first fellowship of the human kind in this mortal state; but also, in a way, a mutual service of sustaining one another's weakness, in order to shun unlawful intercourse: so that, although perpetual continence be pleasing to one of them, he may not, save with consent of the other. For thus far also, "The wife has not power of her own body, but the man: in like manner also the man has not power of his own body, but the woman." '
      'But I see not how the man can have permission to marry another, in case he have left an adulteress, when a woman has not to be married to another, in case she have left an adulterer. And, this being the case, so strong is that bond of fellowship in married persons, that, although it be tied for the sake of begetting children, not even for the sake of begetting children is it loosed.
      ~St Augustine, 'On the Good of Marriage'

      "In creating men 'male and female,' God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity."119 "Man is a person, man and woman equally so, since both were created in the image and likeness of the personal God."120

      "Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death."143
      ~Catechism of the Catholic Church

      I highly doubt that St Augustine was writing in response to domestic abuse amongst the so-called 'baby boomer' generation, and the Catechism clearly as a heritage of equality which pre-dates baby-boomer issues and that protestant idea of male headship of the family as analogous to that of God over creation.

  6. First of all, Brady should be behind bars as the pervert criminal he is. But is something lost in the translation when Benedict's Roboteer Bishops are considered some all purpose perfect beings who now somehow magically have the power to clean up the pot of piss and corruption they themselves helped to create in the first place with this criminal religious rape scheme?