The Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois has leapt to the defence of under fire Cardinal Sean Brady, saying he would be “very saddened” if the Primate is forced to resign.
Bishop Colm O’Reilly said the County Cavan native had given outstanding service to the church since his appointment as Ireland’s chief cleric almost 15 years ago.
In an interview with longfordleader.ie this morning (Thursday), Bishop O’Reilly also hinted that the Vatican, and not Cardinal Brady may ultimately decide his fate.
“At the present time, I would be full of regret if he (Cardinal Brady) weren’t to lead the Bishops’ Conference in June as he has given such high quality leadership to the Church,” said Bishop O’Reilly.
Evidence of Bishop O’Reilly’s support for the embattled Primate comes amid fresh claims about Cardinal Brady’s alleged failure to protect children abused by disgraced paedophile priest, Brendan Smyth.
A BBC programme aired on Tuesday evening revealed Cardinal Brady failed to pass on vital abuse allegation information, a decision which put a number of other children at risk.
Details of the fresh allegations centre on a secret internal church inquiry carried out in 1975.
Two years ago, it emerged Cardinal Brady, then a 36-year-old priest teaching at St Patrick’s College, Cavan, was one of three priests commissioned to conduct the inquiry.
Newly released documents suggest Fr Brady acted as an investigator, and not merely the note taker he has repeatedly maintained he served as.
In the documentary, Brendan Boland told of how, as a 12-year-old boy, information about Brendan Smyth’s evil crimes, were not passed onto parents of other victims.
This, the programme found, resulted in the abuse of a futher two boys after the inquiry had ended.
Mr Boland also told interviewer Darragh MacIntyre his sister was abused by Smyth over a seven-year period following the inquiry with his cousins also suffering at the hands of the serial paedophile until 1988.
Last night, Cardinal Brady attempted to clarify his position by holding a series of interviews with leading national media organisations.
During those discussions, the 72-year-old said he had no intention of stepping aside, stating the programme had misrepresented him.
He said he had been left “outraged” information about Smyth had not been acted upon his superiors at the time.
Today, prominent figures from both the Church and political spectrum have registered their own views on the controversy with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore calling for Cardinal Brady’s resignation.
And this morning, Bishop O’Reilly conceded the present storm was likely to impact negatively on the Church’s credibility.
“Certainly, all these things chip away and that’s regrettable,” he said.
Asked if the Cardinal was under immense personal anguish, Bishop O’Reilly said: “He does look that way. I have huge sympathy for him.”