Head of Irish church apologises to sex abuse victims

DUBLIN Mon May 7, 2012 7:30pm BST

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DUBLIN (Reuters) - The head of the Irish Catholic Church apologised on Monday to victims of sexual abuse but rejected calls to resign after a TV documentary reported the cleric failed to warn parents their children were being sexually abused by a priest in 1975.

The documentary, broadcast by Britain's BBC on Tuesday, said child victim Brendan Boland gave Cardinal Sean Brady the names and addresses of children being abused by paedophile Brendan Smyth during a Church investigation but Brady failed to act to ensure their safety.

"I apologise without hesitation to him (Brendan Boland) and to any victim," Brady told state-broadcaster RTE on Monday.

Three out of the four main parties in the Republic of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have called on Brady to consider his position.

"I've heard those calls but I've also heard the many, many calls from people who want me to stay ... I'm not changing my position," Brady told RTE.

Brady said last week that the documentary was seriously misleading, saying it had exaggerated his role in the inquiry.

Two of the victims whose identities were made known to Brady at the time were subjected to abuse long after the Church inquiry was completed and Smyth continued to abuse other young victims for more than 15 years afterwards.

The sister and four cousins of one of the victims were also abused for several years after the investigation.

Smyth died in 1997, just one month into a 12-year sentence after pleading guilty to 74 charges of indecent and sexual abuse of boys and girls for more than 30 years.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin told RTE he had called for an independent commission into the abuse of children by Smyth.

Meanwhile hundreds of priests gathered in Dublin on Monday at an event organised by the Association of Catholic Priests to discuss the future of the Church.

The Church in predominantly Catholic Ireland has been rocked by a series of reports of child sex abuse stretching back decades and of church leaders' complicity in covering them up.

Ireland announced last year it would close its embassy to the Vatican, one of the Catholic country's oldest missions, after relations hit an all-time low over the Church's handling of sex abuse cases.

Hundreds of cases of priests sexually and physically abusing youths have come to light in Europe and the United States in recent decades as new disclosures have encouraged long-silent victims to go public with their complaints.

(Reporting by Lorraine Turner; Editing by Alison Williams)

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