The program, entitled “Cardinal Secrets,” claimed the archdiocese is facing 450 lawsuits as a result of allegations of abuse by clerics in parishes or child-care institutions.
The archdiocese says 26 civil actions against “priests of the diocese” have been settled and another 26 are pending.
The Survivors of Child Abuse organization, which represents about 800 people, said the program had shown what victims had been saying for years: that there had been collusion in the coverup of abuse of children by priests at the highest level in the Church.
SOCA coordinator John Kelly said that whatever defense is put forward by the cardinal, “his position is now untenable and he should, therefore, resign forthwith.” He also called on Justice Minister Michael McDowell to initiate an urgent Garda investigation into whether any crimes had been committed “by way of complicity, perverting the course of justice or failing to report a crime” and to set up a statutory inquiry.
The cardinal is under pressure to quit and comparisons have been made with Bishop Brendan Comiskey’s departure from the Ferns diocese earlier this year in similar circumstances.
The cardinal did not go on the live discussion after the program and instead sent two representatives. But when he attempted to repeat his apology to a congregation in the Pro-Cathedral last Saturday, he faced unprecedented heckling before finally getting applause when he finished speaking.
The beleaguered prelate took a lashing from the tabloid papers and even the more somber broadsheets made clear he should step down in page one headlines: “Cardinal, in the name of God resign” (Sunday Tribune) and “Go, in the name of God” (Sunday Independent).
An American priest and expert on the church’s own canon law, Fr. Tom Doyle, who carried out an examination of abuse-case files in Dublin for the documentary, was highly critical of what he discovered.
“I have found what I have read about Dublin to be disgusting,” said Doyle who has examined sexual abuse by clerics in countries like Britain, the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
“I would rate it as up at the top as far as egregious nature of the coverup, the collusion among the clergy — not just the top-level clergy in the diocesan administration but down in the lower levels — where they have colluded not to report these issues,” he said. He said the church had stonewalled and isolated the victims.
“There is no excuse for this,” he told the program. He added that the number of legal actions against archdiocese — which has 700 priests serving 200 parishes — put Dublin “right at the top of the heap.”
The program revealed that a priest who died earlier this year, Fr. Noel Reynolds, had admitted abusing 100 children in eight parishes. Reynolds was finally appointed chaplain to the National Rehabilitation Hospital, which has a children’s ward.
The archdiocese press office later expressed “sincere regret” for not informing the hospital authorities about the “concerns” expressed regarding Reynolds and his “inappropriate behavior with children.”