Dublin archbishop says Catholic leaders must admit ‘entire truth’ of Ireland’s abuse cover-ups

By Shawn Pogatchnik, AP
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dublin archbishop: Catholic Church must tell truth

DUBLIN — Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin declared Tuesday that his Catholic colleagues in Ireland must tell “the entire truth” about their decades of covering up child abuse in the priesthood — or else the Irish government may have to broaden its own investigations.

Martin, the second-highest-ranking Catholic in Ireland, has demanded greater honesty and openness over the church’s longtime refusal to tell police about pedophile priests being transferred from parish to parish, school to school.

He declined Tuesday to call for the resignation of his superior, Cardinal Sean Brady, who acknowledges he never told police about victims’ statements that he collected against notorious pedophile priest Brendan Smyth in 1975.

But Martin said church officials had inflicted untold suffering on scores of Smyth’s victims from 1975 to 1994, when he was finally arrested and convicted on more than 100 counts of molesting and raping boys and girls. Smyth, who abused children in the U.S. states of North Dakota and Rhode Island as well as Ireland, died in an Irish military prison in 1997.

“Brendan Smyth should have been stopped from the very first time it was known that he was abusing,” Martin said. “How a person would have abused and continued to abuse for so long — 18 years after (Brady’s evidence-gathering) — and God knows how many years before.”

Martin, a veteran Vatican diplomat assigned to oversee his native Dublin in 2004, had gone all but silent on Ireland’s abuse scandals since he and other Irish church leaders held an exceptional summit with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome last month.

Analysts say Martin’s calls for greater church accountability — including resignations of bishops who failed to protect children — so far have been rebuffed by defensive, guilty colleagues. The pope has yet to accept the December resignations of Martin’s own two auxiliary bishops who were implicated in the culture of cover-up.

Brady said last month in Rome he would resign if he was found to have endangered children by his actions. Over the weekend, Irish newspapers reported that Brady interviewed two of Smyth’s victims in 1975 but never told police — and had both victims, former altar boys, sign oaths of secrecy.

But Brady, a canon lawyer who became Ireland’s Catholic leader in 1996 and was elevated to cardinal in 2007, now says he was following superiors’ orders in 1975 and had no right to go over their heads to police. He defends the demand for secrecy oaths from the two boys as necessary to protect the integrity of his investigation.

When asked whether it was right that Brady never reported his evidence to police, Martin said, “That’s up to him to explain.”

The Dublin leader said he would never explicitly call for colleagues to resign. “I ask for accountability. Resigning is a personal decision,” he said.

Martin said he clearly had not pleased some church colleagues and priests by his stand, but he valued his “independence of thought.”

“What I’m trying to do above all is listen to what people are saying in the parishes. … People want the entire truth to come out,” he said.

Three Irish government-ordered investigations — into the Dublin Archdiocese, the southeast Irish diocese of Ferns, and a defunct network of Catholic workhouse-style schools for poor children — have already documented a shocking catalog of child abuse cover-ups from the 1930s to 1990s involving more than 15,000 children.

But Martin said the vast majority of Ireland’s 27 dioceses had avoided such scrutiny, and their bishops largely have failed to come clean about their own role in suppressing the truth.

Martin said broadening the government’s current investigation — into abuse cover-ups in the southwest diocese of Cloyne — to include all dioceses would be a wastefully expensive way to force the church to come clean nationally. “But it may be the only way,” he said.

On the Net:

Church statement on cardinal’s 1975 actions, tinyurl.com/yc99rf2

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