LONDON – LONDON (AP) — The leader of Ireland's Roman Catholics said Wednesday that he is ashamed of his part in dealing with a child sex abuse scandal 35 years ago, and said he is uncertain what the future holds for him.
Cardinal Sean Brady has faced calls for his resignation following revelations that he participated in interviews with two victims of the notorious pedophile priest Brendan Smyth in 1975, but did not notify police.
"I have listened to reaction from people to my role in events 35 years ago. I want to say to anyone who has been hurt by any failure on my part that I apologize to you with all my heart," Brady said in a St. Patrick's Day sermon at Armagh cathedral in Northern Ireland.
"I also apologize to all those who feel I have let them down. Looking back, I am ashamed that I have not always upheld the values that I profess and believe in."
In Rome, Pope Benedict XVI said he would soon send a pastoral letter to the Irish church and hoped it would promote "repentance, healing and renewal."
Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said Tuesday his Catholic colleagues in Ireland must tell "the entire truth" about their decades of covering up child abuse in the priesthood, but he stopped short of calling for Brady to step down.
"I ask for accountability. Resigning is a personal decision," Martin said.
Brady said last month in Rome he would resign if he was found to have endangered children by his actions. Over the weekend, Irish newspapers reported that Brady interviewed two of Smyth's victims in 1975, but never told police and had both victims, former altar boys, sign oaths of secrecy.
Brady, a canon lawyer who became Ireland's Catholic leader in 1996 and was elevated to cardinal in 2007, says he was following superiors' orders in 1975 and had no right to go over their heads to police. He said the secrecy oaths from the two boys were necessary to protect the integrity of his investigation.
Martin said church officials were responsible for the suffering of scores of Smyth's victims from 1975 to 1994, when he was arrested and convicted on more than 100 counts of molesting and raping boys and girls. Smyth, who abused children in the U.S. states of North Dakota and Rhode Island as well as Ireland, died in an Irish military prison in 1997.
"Brendan Smyth should have been stopped from the very first time it was known that he was abusing," Martin said. "How a person would have abused and continued to abuse for so long — 18 years after (Brady's evidence-gathering) — and God knows how many years before."
In his sermon, Brady referred to St. Peter and St. Patrick as "wounded healers" — men who had sinned, but were leaders of the church.
"There is true freedom in humbly acknowledging, like the wounded healers Peter and Patrick, the full truth of our sinfulness," Brady said.
"The Lord is calling us to a new beginning. None of us knows where that new beginning will lead," Brady added.
On the Net:
Irish Bishops Conference, http://www.catholicbishops.ie