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Published: Wednesday, 5/2/2012

Ireland's Catholic leader defends role in cover-up of priest's child abuse, says he won't quit


DUBLIN — The leader of Ireland's 4 million Catholics said Wednesday he wouldn't resign after a BBC documentary accused him of helping to cover up 1970s child abuse by a pedophile priest who went on to assault scores of other children.

Cardinal Sean Brady said the documentary exaggerated his role in his 1975 interviews of two teenage boys abused by the priest, Brendan Smyth. He said he gave his report to his bishop, who in turn had the responsibility to tell Smyth's religious order leaders.

They, not he, had the power to act and failed to do so, Brady said.

"I feel betrayed that those who had the authority in the church to stop Brendan Smyth failed to act on the evidence I gave them. However, I also accept that I was part of an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society, and the church, which thankfully is now a thing of the past," Brady said.

Brady's statement did not address why no one in the church thought to call the police. Nor did it mention that he, as the canon lawyer in the two interviews, had both boys sign oaths of secrecy promising not to tell anyone outside the church of the abuse they had suffered. Brady previously has argued that the oaths were designed to protect the rights of the children, not the reputation of the church.

One of those victims, Brendan Boland, told the BBC that Brady and two other priests involved in gathering his 1975 testimony made his father wait outside the room. Boland, aged 14 at the time, said he told the priests the names and addresses of five other boys and girls that were being sexually assaulted by Smyth. The BBC interviewed all five and reported that some continued to be assaulted into the 1980s, and that their parents never received any warnings about possible abuse from the church.

Smyth, who also allegedly abused dozens of children in the U.S. states of Rhode Island and North Dakota, was finally imprisoned in the British territory of Northern Ireland in 1994 after being convicted of molesting four children in the same Belfast family.The mishandling of his case triggered the collapse of the Irish government that year.

Smyth died in 1997.

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