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 has said he will not step down over allegations he sought to cover up a notorious case of serial child sex abuse.

Cardinal Sean Brady, under intense pressure to quit amid a widespread paedophile priest scandal in Europe and the United States, said Monday he wanted to help the Church recover from the controversy.

"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.

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

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.

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.

Brady said in March he was ashamed of his failings and apologised to those who suffered.

Pope Benedict XVI has previously issued a pastoral letter to Ireland's Catholics, expressing remorse and sorrow for abuse inflicted on children by Irish priests and religious brothers.

The Vatican has for months been battling a series of sex abuse scandals amid allegations that the Church had protected paedophile priests from prosecution in the US and several European countries.

Brady 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.

The board said that while much of the media coverage surrounding clerical abuse had concentrated on sexual abuse, many of the allegations "were cases of alleged physical and emotional abuse as well as allegations of sexual abuse".

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."

© 2010 AFP

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