Ireland's top Catholic 'won't quit' over paedophile priest case

18th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

The embattled head of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland signalled Monday he would not step down over his links to a clerical child sex abuse scandal.

Cardinal Sean Brady, under intense pressure to quit amid a paedophile priest controversy gripping the Church in Europe and the United States, expressed his commitment to working towards a "genuine healing and renewal in the Church."

"In the years that remain to me as Archbishop of Armagh, I am fully committed to building on the substantial progress made in child safeguarding in recent years," he said in a statement.

Brady -- Archbishop of Armagh, in Northern Ireland, as well as being Primate of All Ireland -- made the comments as new details of abuse were released by the Irish Catholic Church's child protection watchdog.

He has faced calls to quit after it emerged that as a 35-year-old priest in 1975 he met two children abused by a notorious paedophile clergyman, Father Brendan Smyth.

The children were required by Brady to sign an oath of silence about their abuse and to agree to talk to no one about their interviews except authorised clergy.

The police were not informed and Smyth went on to abuse children in Ireland, Scotland and the United States before he was finally convicted 20 years later and jailed for a catalogue of sexual offences.

In his comments late Monday, Brady said he would work "to bring about the healing, repentance and renewal set out for the Church in Ireland by Pope Benedict XVI."

"I will do all I can to help sow the seeds for a genuine healing and renewal in the Church," he added.

The cardinal also responded to a report from the Catholic Church in Ireland's child protection watchdog on Monday, which said it had received 197 new complaints of abuse in the year to March 31.

None of the new complaints were made by children or young people and some dated back to events in the 1950s and 1960s, the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) said.

Brady said: "I hope today's report will help to reassure everyone that while important challenges remain, the Catholic Church in Ireland has come a long way in addressing the failings of the past."

Ireland, a predominantly Catholic country, has been rocked by two reports in the past year on child sex abuse stretching back decades, and on Church leaders' complicity in covering it up.

The Church has for months been embroiled in a series of sex abuse scandals amid allegations that the Vatican had protected paedophile priests from prosecution in US and several European countries, including the pope's native Germany.

© 2010 AFP

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