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Archive for April 16th, 2010

A few private thoughts will have circulated among churchmen and their
critics when the news came through on Tuesday night that Cardinal Sean
Brady had been rushed to hospital.
Those who love and defend the Cardinal, as many do, will have worried
that this was the outworking of the pressure put on him by media
manipulators and scandal mongers who have never understood the
Catholic church or known what a good man he is.
Others will have thought, more deviously; Isn’t this convenient?
At 70 the Cardinal does not look like a spry and durable man but he
climbed the pilgrim mountain Croagh Patrick just a few years ago and
he may have a more robust body under that black suit than is suggested
by his ambling manner.
He is not due to retire until he is 75 but an early retirement on
health grounds might be the best diplomatic response to the pressure
on him to resign.
In 1975 Fr Sean Brady, as he then was, administered an oath of secrecy
to young people who had been abused by the horrific Brendan Smyth.
Smyth was one of the most prolific predators on children to have
emerged from a church that has, we now know, never been short of the
type.
Cardinal Brady told his congregation on St Patrick’s Day that he would
take the season of Lent to reflect upon his position. That now extends
to Pentecost. Other bishops similarly tainted by their association
with inadequate episcopal procedures for curtailing paedophiles –
usually by shifting them to other parishes – had offered to stand
down.
Brady was heartened that his congregation applauded him and he said
that we wanted to consider whether the church still had a place for a
wounded healer, comparing himself to St Patrick.
If this seemed not the right tone for a man who was conceding that he
had done wrong, few in the pews seem to have been offended.
One of the concerns of many Catholics in Armagh is that Sean Brady is
being reviled for doing what any other priest of his standing at the
times would have done, he followed the instructions of his bishop, to
whom he had sworn obedience.
Another concern is the old rivalry btween Dublin and Armagh over who
leads the Irish church. Armagh is proud to be the seat of the Primate
and to have a primate who is a cardinal.  Some would worry that the
centre of gravity of the irish church would shift south and that the
historic ecclesiastical capital would lose it shine.
And in Dublin there is an archbishop who now makes a more credible
case for himself as a champion of the new clean up in the church.
Of course, the church is making such a botch of presenting itself as
more concerned to protect children than to preserve its good name,
that it can not be safely assumed that men like Archbishop Diarmuid
Martin will prevail anyway.
After the publication of the Murphy Report, disclosing the scale of
abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin last year, the church had seemed
ready to accept radical change.
Since then it has made a series of horrific mistakes.
The pastoral letter to the people of Ireland from the Pope himself
plainly dismissed the claim that the application of canon Law had been
part of the problem. It said that Canon Law had simply not been
properly applied.
So it was still, in his eyes, the job of the church to punish
paedophile priests, though the state should be deferred to in its
‘areas of competence’.
The latest smug riposte was the drivel from Cardinal Bertoni in
Brazil, suggesting that child abuse was more likely to stem from
homosexuality than celibacy.
Other senior churchmen have maintained the line that the church is
under attack from the media.
One said last week that he had heard the persecution of the church
compared to the persecution of the Jews.
The men who would be the moral leaders of the whole world may preach
the parable of the mote and beam but many appear not to have grasped
its meaning.
And this deepening defensiveness within the church comes in the run up
to a papal visit to the UK.
And anger is growing there, so much that it seems unlikely that the
Papal visit can proceed without protest.
Gays will not accept that they are more likely to rape children than
are men who commit themselves to living celibately for God.
And the legal case that the Pope is himself answerable for the cover
up of abuse all over the world now seems strong enough to warrant
testing if there was a court he could be brought before.
In all of this, there must be many in the church who realise that the
only way to prove good intention and a proper sense of moral
responsibility is to sacrifice a sacred cow.
And there he goes, striding the holy hills of Armagh, fit as a sandboy
but succumbing to pressure.
They may hope there are medical grounds for prompting him to make a
dignified stand down. On the other hand, they may be starting to
realise that sacking him out right would be the better face saver.
More likely they will do nothing, for this is a church as frail as the
dim old men who lead it, men unfit for clear action or moral courage,
hobbling through every crisis.

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