Irish Catholic Church Leader Apologizes to Sex Abuse Victims; Refuses to Resign

The head of the Irish Catholic Church apologized last week to victims sexually abused by convicted child molester Father Brendan Smyth, but rejected calls to resign, in the latest development in one of the most publicized stories concerning sex scandals in the Irish church.

The Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Seán Brady, said he wished to personally apologize to Brendan Boland, a man abused in 1975 at the age of 14 by Smyth. Boland had notified Brady, a teacher at a Catholic school at the time, about the abuse and has said that Brady did not take appropriate action. As many as 100 other young people were reportedly abused by the same priest later over the years.

The only action Brady took at the time, according to Boland, was to promise that the accused priest would have no contact with other young people. Some 20 years later, Boland was told of reports that Smyth had abused other children subsequent to his testimony, according to the BBC.

Smyth reportedly continued to abuse other young victims for more than 15 years afterwards. He remains one of the most infamous convicted sex offenders in the Catholic Church sex scandal. The mishandling of his case by the contemporary Irish government led to its collapse in 1994. During a period of over 40 years, Smyth reportedly sexually abused as many as 100 children in parishes in Belfast, Dublin and the United States. The case caused even greater outrage because of an apparent cover-up by church officials.

Smyth was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He died in 1997 at 70, in prison, of a heart attack, one month into his sentence.

Brady had reportedly already offered to apologize to Boland in private, but the victim demanded a public apology for himself and other victims. Brady resisted, until May 7, when he issued the apology through Irish state television, RTE.

"I apologize without hesitation to him (Boland) and to any victim," Brady told reporters last week.

"I offered that apology last Christmas, I offered to come and see him (Boland) in person. He wanted a public apology, it didn't happen, but I repeat now that I publicly apologize to him," the Cardinal was quoted saying.

However, Brady said he would not resign, even though three out of the four main parties in the Republic of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have reportedly called on him to consider stepping aside.

"I've heard those calls but I've also heard the many, many calls from people who want me to stay," Brady, 73, told RTE, adding that he intended to remain in his position "until I'm 75, or unless the Holy See indicated it didn't want me to stay." He added there was no indication from the Vatican that it was willing to ask for his resignation.

One day later, Boland issued a statement in which he thanked the Cardinal for the apology and said that one day he hoped to find the strength to accept his offer of a face-to-face meeting.

"While a public apology was previously refused, I am delighted that the cardinal has relented," Boland said. "I also note, and again acknowledge, the offer of a private apology as expressed last November in the course of settlement negotiations in my case and reiterated on Monday last. I hope that I may yet find the strength to meet personally with him."

Boland's case was settled out of court in Nov. 2011.

Boland reiterated again last week that if "the right thing had been done" by Brady and his colleagues in 1975, "the unspeakable abuse of the other children I had sought to save would not have happened."

"Both Cardinal Brady and I will have to live with our guilt in that regard," he added.