Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, has called for an independent investigation into the abuse of children by Fr Brendan Smyth, saying only a full inquiry would reveal the "full story" of his crimes.
Smyth is said to have abused over 100 kids in parishes in Northern Ireland, the Republic, the US, Italy and Wales. Smyth died in prison in 1997.
The Smyth case brought down the Irish government in 1994 when it was revealed they had delayed an extradition order for him which allowed him to continue to abuse. Now he may bring down Cardinal Sean Brady, Primate of All-Ireland, who is accused of covering up for him after a 1987 inquiry he took part in.
Martin’s stance may put him once again at odds with the Vatican, who have been deeply reluctant to allow outside inquiries of alleged misdeeds by priests.
Martin also said that since the abuse took place in the Republic, Northern Ireland, and the United States, only an international investigation would suffice.
His statement was “welcomed and supported” by a spokesman for Cardinal Sean Brady.
On RTE's "This Week", Martin said he was calling for "An independent commission of investigation into the activities of Brendan Smyth, as to how he was allowed to abuse for so many years. A commission that would look north and south, Church and State."
Earlier, commenting to the media outside Mass he stated, “We’re getting all these bits and pieces of information about a horrible situation, what Brendan Smyth did to children.”
He believes “that until all of this story in its entirety comes out, we are not doing justice to those who were abused and we’re not really getting at the truth”.
He said it wasn’t “fashionable today to talk about commissions, but I do really believe that an independent commission of investigation into the activities of Brendan Smyth, as to how he was allowed to abuse for so many years. An independent commission, which would look North and South, church and State.”
Asked about the position of Cardinal Brady, who has been widely attacked for covering up for Smyth, Martin said, “I’ve never called for anybody’s resignation. I’ve never done that. Everybody has to make their own decisions.”
He said, “I don’t know what the relationship between him and bishop [McKiernan of Kilmore] was. I don’t know what the bishop did, what he knew the bishop did...Looking back at the Dublin inquiry I’ve seen that these are complex questions and I wouldn’t like to judge a person on things that I don’t know.”
Commenting on the Vatican censures of liberal Irish priests, he said: “I believe, and I’ve said this before, we do need to have a way in which if things are said or written which go outside the realm of Catholic teaching, they should be resolved in an area of dialogue.”
“I think the theological commission of the Irish bishops has not carried out its function as in other countries where this dialogue would take place as a first stage and then be resolved without it necessarily being dealt with from Rome directly.”
Colm O'Gorman, an abuse survivor and director of Amnesty International Ireland, said that an inquiry would have to also examine the role of the Vatican and thus would require its cooperation.
“An investigation that required Vatican cooperation would of course offer them the opportunity to show they would not undermine or obstruct!” O’Gorman tweeted.
Meanwhile, a chorus of voices have called for the resignation of Cardinal Sean Brady, who failed to protect the children he knew were being abused by Smyth.
Cardinal Sean Brady's method of interviewing victims of the sexual abuse in the 1970s, without the knowledge of the parents, has been described as "bizarre” by The Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise.
Speaking to RTE's "This Week" Bishop Colm O'Reilly agreed that the practice of secretly interviewing such children was wrong but also said that in his view Cardinal Sean Brady should not resign as he acted in good faith and did what was required of him at the time.