herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

Terry Prone: How could he have done what we now know he did, and how can he say he will not resign?

Put yourself back 35 years. Put yourself in the little shoes of a 10-year-old boy raped by a smiling, smarming, ruthless paedophile. A smiling, smarming dangerous man presented to the little boy as belonging to a group of men -- the men in black -- he could always trust.

Put yourself in his shoes as he sits in a room he has never been in before, with other men in black who get him to swear an oath he doesn't understand, promising he will never talk about what was done to him -- except to another man in black.

No child should ever have so suffered. No child must ever so suffer again.

The reaction to the fact that Cardinal Brady was one of those men in black has been furious and astonished.

This big quiet man seemed honest. Caring.

Determined to repair the damage done by generations of cover-up. Why, he had even said that if he had ever done anything that endangered children, he would resign. Here's a man educated to the highest levels. How could he have done what we now know he did, and how can he say he won't resign?

Now, put yourself in HIS big shoes, 35 years ago.

He is instructed by his bishop to find out what Fr Brendan Smyth had done to this little boy, and to another child. He goes about it methodically. He has no doubt that the children are telling the truth. No doubt that Fr Brendan Smyth has raped and abused them and must never, EVER be allowed to exercise his ministry again.

Smith must have his licence to practise in the diocese suspended, so he can never get close to children again in the confessional. Brady gets the best advice available to him at the time. Part of that advice is that, if Smith is not to wriggle out of the process, the information must be kept secret, and must go only to the bishop. So he administers an oath to two children, speedily writes his report, gives it to the bishop, and two weeks later, Smith, as a priest accredited in the diocese, is done and dusted.

This does not, as we now know, stop him raping and abusing other children, because the diocese had no control over the Norbertines.

Smyth stayed within his order and continued to be ruthlessly exploitative of children. That's the tragedy -- that an organisation set up to represent the best, to lead people to good behaviour, to "suffer the little children" managed its job so badly.

We now know the information should have gone immediately to the gardai, and that the full weight of the civil powers should have moved against Smith.

We now know that nothing, other than imprisonment and isolation, would ever have stopped so rabid a paedophile from continuing to ruin the lives of children

Because, let's be in no doubt, that's what happened.

What has been described as the greatest scandal of modern Irish Catholicism destroyed the childhood and ruined the adult lives of the little ones raped by Smith and others.

The organisations representing survivors of clerical child sex abuse believe nothing less than resignation will suffice.

Faithful

Sean Brady is not a man of pomp and ceremony.

Not a man clinging to office because he is defined by his office. Resignation would be the easiest option for him, giving him a quick retreat to anonymity.

Interestingly, however, many of the faithful interviewed yesterday as they left a Mass in a Dublin parish didn't want him to resign.

These were not people who had ever met him or known him personally, but their view was that he did the best he could, back then, with the information he had, and that, with the information he now has, he can help the Church show what it desperately needs to show: abject contrition and a firm purpose of amendment.

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