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VATICAN CITY (RNS) Facing calls for his resignation, the senior prelate of the Catholic Church in Ireland apologized Wednesday (March 17) for his role in dealing with a sexually abusive priest in 1975.
Cardinal Sean Brady said he was “ashamed” he had failed to tell Irish police about secrecy oaths signed by two alleged victims of Brendan Smyth, who was later convicted on more than 100 counts of sexual abuse of children.
Irish newspapers revealed over the weekend that Brady, who at the time served as secretary to the Bishop of Kilmore, was present in 1975 when two former altar boys signed oaths of secrecy about their accusations against Smyth.
In a statement on Sunday (March 14), Brady’s office said the oaths were intended “to respect the confidentiality of the information gathering process.”
Asked by reporters whether Brady should resign, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was notably unsupportive. “I ask for accountability,”
Martin said on Wednesday. “Resigning is a personal decision,”
Four Irish bishops have already offered to resign since last November’s publication of the Murphy Commission Report, which uncovered a three-decade pattern of sex abuse and cover-up in the Archdiocese of Dublin. So far, Pope Benedict has accepted only one resignation, of Donal B. Murray of Limerick.
Also on Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI announced he would sign his expected pastoral letter about the Irish sex abuse crisis on Friday “and send it soon after.”
Noting the occasion of St. Patrick’s Day, Benedict told Irish pilgrims at his weekly public audience that the “church in Ireland has been severely shaken as a result of the child abuse crisis.”
He called his letter to Irish Catholics a “sign of my deep concern,”
which he hoped would “help in the process of repentance, healing and renewal.”
Last month, Benedict met with all 24 serving Irish bishops to discuss the letter, which will be the first major papal document in modern times devoted to clerical sex abuse.
This week also brought more news from the British Isles, as politicians and church leaders in London released details of Benedict’s September 16-19 visit to Britain.
Among the highlights of the trip will be a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland; a joint ecumenical service with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams; and the beatification of the 19th-century theologian Cardinal John Henry Newman.
Yet controversy also promises to follow Benedict in Britain.
Secularist groups have protested the use of government funds to pay for his visit, and the pope’s planned speech to political leaders to London is likely to echo his earlier criticisms of anti-discrimination measures that conflict with Catholic teaching on gender and sexuality.
By Francis X. Rocca
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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