Alan McGuckian SJ published a personal opinion piece on the controversy surrounding Cardinal Sean Brady, in the Friday 19 March edition of the Irish News. In a St Patrick’s Day homily, Cardinal Brady referred to his role in dealing with child abuse allegations 35 years ago and apologized for failures on his part and said he would “reflect on what he has heard from those who have been hurt by abuse”. Though there were public calls for the Cardinal’s resignation Alan McGuckian believes he should not resign but use his leadership role and the wisdom gained from past mistakes to initiate reform. Read his full article here.
CARDINAL BRADY SHOULD NOT RESIGN
Alan McGuckian SJ
35 years ago Seán Brady took actions that seemed to be the best that he could do at that time. What he did then was fully consistent with the lights of a culture in which very many of us, laity as well as clergy were involved. For reasons that seemed utterly clear to us then, we shared in a spirit of loyalty that was misguided, and as we now see, caused untold hurt and pain to the innocent. I believe very many of us shared in that culture. With the passage of time we can too easily forget how we lived and how we operated in the world twenty, thirty and forty years ago.
Accountability is crucial. However, if all we do is call on individuals like Seán Brady to account for sins of blindness in which we were all complicit, we do not adequately face up to the truth of our past and will not be well served in the present or in the future.
Seán Brady is a manifestly good man. He is as good as we will get as primate of All Ireland. The institutional church in Ireland is currently rudderless, largely because of faulty structures of management. Rather than expelling Sean Brady as a scapegoat – a role that will not take away the sins of the rest of us – we Irish Catholics need to demand that he gives leadership. He needs to do two things.
He must gather a small but broad-based group of committed Catholics, lay, clerical and Religious, male and female, who will advise him frankly and boldly as to how to proceed on the question of full accountability. This group must also include a widely respected Protestant. Ireland must decide soon whether or not to embark on a Murphy style process in every diocese. There are good arguments pro and con. The two Governments, North and South, may well come to their own decisions on this issue. The advisory group, however, could play an important role, making recommendations for a process which ensured maximum openness and accountability. It is important for Catholics that the Church be genuinely proactive in seeking transparency in this area of safeguarding children.
The Cardinal, who now has first hand experience and understanding of the false culture of secrecy in the Universal Church’s structures and laws, must establish an Irish committee made up of Canon lawyers and civil lawyers to make recommendations to him about the ways in which some of the provisions of Canon Law offend against the rights of the individual. He must then take a clear and public stand within the Universal Church on a way for a renewal of the structures of the Catholic Church.
Cardinal Brady is an orthodox Catholic Bishop who will never say or do anything to harm the Church but he must hear the anguished voice of Irish Catholics and learn from it. If he survives these calls for his resignation, and I dearly hope that he does, he must speak the truth in love, openly and fearlessly, both in the Irish situation and in the Universal Church. As a Cardinal of the Roman Church who has served faithfully and has also acknowledged his own shame in participating in a false Church culture, he will have real influence for good not only in Ireland but in the Universal Church.
Alan McGuckian SJ