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In 1975, the Catholic Church of Ireland sent Father Sean Brady to interview two teenage boys who had been abused by their priest, Brendan Smyth. Brady recorded their harrowing testimony and submitted it to his superiors, who transferred Smyth to a different parish, again and again. Twenty years later, Smyth was finally imprisoned after being convicted on 153 counts of child abuse in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, Father Sean Brady moved up the Church hierarchy. He is now Cardinal Sean Brady.
After the BBC recently reported his role in Smyth's investigation, Brady publicly expressed regret. He regrets that his superiors dealt inappropriately with Smyth. He regrets that the Church had no "guidelines" for handling pedophilia by priests. He regrets that he and others did not understand the "full impact of abuse" on the lives of children.
But for his own role in abetting child abuse, Cardinal Brady's regret is rather meager. He explained that he was nothing more than a note-taker without any authority to act. As to why he remained silent when his superiors transferred Smyth, he reluctantly conceded, "I also accept that I was part of an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society, and the Church."
Despite the outrage rising in Ireland, he has refused to resign.
But what if Sean Brady were not a Cardinal?
Suppose that he had been an army lieutenant investigating a massacre by U.S. soldiers and that his superiors allowed the perpetrators to continue killing. Would he be permitted to continue as Army Chief of Staff when the news broke?
Suppose that he had been a corporate accountant who reported criminal fraud within his company and said nothing when his boss allowed the culprits to carry on defrauding customers? Would he be entitled to remain Chief Financial Officer when the fraud was revealed?
Suppose that he had been a teacher tasked with investigating child abuse in his school and that he kept quiet when the school board transferred the pedophile to a different school where he abused more children. Would he be able to stay on as Secretary of Education?
But Sean Brady is a Cardinal, a man of God chosen not only for his administrative skills but also for his moral authority. More than soldiers, executives, and educators, his office requires a deep understanding of the difference between good and evil and a profound commitment to moral law.
And so, in the logic of Catholic Church, he has been allowed to remain in his place to continue the work of God.