Jude Collins

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Clerical child sexual abuse (again)

I’ve just come off the phone from talking on the Stephen Nolan Show about clerical sexual abuse of children. Dear God, but I’m weary of listening to and talking about this topic. The latest flare-up of air-time is the statement from Cardinal Sean Brady that he doesn’t plan to retire and will have a coadjudtor bishop working alongside him in the coming years. 

That seems to me a pretty clear signal that he’ll withdraw gradually from his duties as cardinal, thus showing that decisions within the Catholic Church are made by its members rather than public agitation, and at the same time soothing the fevered nerves of those who’d have not only Brady resigning tomorrow but the Pope as well.

I made two points on air about the Brady decision. One,  except he was possessed of extraordinary insight, Brady acted within the thinking of the time ( the 1970s). Around that time it was OK to take a child and beat him with a leather strap on the hands, sometimes as hard as the teacher felt was appropriate, and no one or very few thought it was  child abuse. That’s how things were  then. Likewise Brady I assume acted within the thinking of his time with regard to charges of sexual abuse. They were kept confidential (a different matter from saying the children ‘were forced to make a vow of secrecy’) and they were seen as near to incredible.  The second point I made was that the whole matter  revolves around Cardinal Brady’s conscience. Only he knows whether he acted in good faith, whether he discharged his duties then knowing they were not enough and that he should have stepped outside the structures and informed the civil authorities. Only he knows, and it’s a bit presumptuous for abuse victim Marie Collins (no relation)  to declare that if Cardinal Brady’s conscience told him he was acting in a moral fashion, it was wrong. It also shows a shaky grasp of the connection between conscience and morality. If Cardinal Brady had acted against his conscience, no matter what the circumstances, he would have been morally guilty. I presume Ms Collins and no on else would argue that the cardinal acted wrongly because he acted morally. 

Would the cardinal's resignation make a difference? Hard to say but certainly not to the recurrence of clerical child abuse. The Catholic Church in Ireland now has structures of accountability and protection in place that mean your child is probably safer in the company of a Catholic priest than with a member of any other profession in Ireland.  Sean Brady's staying or going will make no difference to that - except your aim is not child protection but a clerical head on a plate. 


  1. Nothing wrong with a head on a plate when its the right head. Sean Brady knowingly let a vicious sexual monster, in the form of Brendan Smyth, roam from parish to parish sexually molesting children. He could have stopped him by going to the authourities, defrocking him (if that is the right phrase) or excommunicating him. However severe a slapping at the hands of a teacher, and I've had a few, it is no comparison to the abuse suffered at the hand of the likes of Brendan Smyth and ignored by the likes of Sean Brady.


  2. Maybe like a lot of the priest abusers Mr Brady had no conscience either or following the mores of the day was indifferent to the childrens' suffering,he seemed more interested in covering the offenders arses so to speak than protecting the vulnerable children,many pscycologically damaged for life.I personally have seen men in their 50's break down and cry like babies when their personal memories of physical abuse at the hands of the clergy rise to the surface and for anyone to blithely dismiss it as well that's what happened then just seems a bit toadyish and sycophantic towards the Catholic church,the indoctrination must run deep especially for the older conservative "intellectual "Catholic class to try to justify or defend any of this deviant behaviour.It's interesting to note that only in Ireland was it "OK" for grown "men" to beat young children viciously with leather straps and 30/40 years later have someone try to justify it as somehow acceptable .If the Mormons had come into Ireland and behaved like the Catholic church has they would have been run out of the country a long time ago with probably more than a few fatalities along the way.Maybe it's time Ireland had a spiritual reawakening,we can all be good Christians,humanists or all round good people towards our neighbours in our own right,still be Irish as Irish was before the Church of Rome came to Ireland without being a Catholic.