Cardinal Sean Brady speaks to members of the media outside Armagh cathedral in northern Ireland
Cardinal Sean Brady speaks to members of the media outside Armagh cathedral in northern Ireland Reuters

The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland announced that he will not resign following allegations that he withheld information in a 1975 child sex abuse investigation.

A BBC documentary, aired on May 1 in Northern Ireland, uncovered that Cardinal Sean Brady knew the names and addresses of victims abused by a serial pedophile and former priest Brendan Smyth, and failed to inform the police or parents.

Smyth continued to abuse children for more than ten years following the Church inquiry.

Cardinal Brady, who was a priest and teacher at the time, said he was outraged, appalled, and felt betrayed after knowing his information was not used to stop the abuse.

With others, I feel betrayed that those who had the authority in the Church to stop Brendan Smyth failed to act on the evidence I gave them, he said in a statement issued Wednesday.

However, the cardinal admitted he was part of an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society, and in the Church.

Cardinal Brady claimed the documentary wrongly exaggerated his role in the process, as his job was to take notes during interviews, not to act on the information provided.

To suggest, as the program does, that I led the investigation of the 1975 Church Inquiry into allegations against Brendan Smyth is seriously misleading and untrue, he said.

Cardinal Brady, the primate of all Ireland since 2007, insists he did not have authority over Smyth and acted appropriately in providing evidence to his superiors.

Yet, the program, The Shame of the Catholic Church, argues that documents show that the then Father Brady was dispatched to investigate the complaint, meaning he actually had more authority than he claims.

Cardinal Brady's involvement in the inquiry was revealed in 2010, yet it was not known he knew the names and addresses of the victims until now.

The BBC's investigation focused on the 1975 interview of then 14-year-old Brendan Boland, who was the first to reveal Smyth's actions. Smyth abused a number of children during his trips throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland during a span of four decades.

Boland, now 51, told the BBC he provided the names and addresses of five other potential victims, and was sworn to secrecy once his story was told.

The BBC spoke to the children Boland identified, and all said their parents and families were not warned about Smyth.

The Vatican's chief prosecutor, Mgr. Charles Scicluna, has come out to defend Cardinal Brady in light of the scandal.

My first point is that Fr. Brady was a note taker in 1975, he did what he should have done. He forwarded all the information to the people that he had the power to act, he said.

The Monsignor maintained the Catholic Church in Ireland needs to have Cardinal Brady as the archbishop of Armagh because he has shown determination in promoting child protection policies.

The Vatican further points out no state or Church guidelines for responding to allegation of child abuse existed in Ireland at the time.

We are talking about a different generation. When you were asked to do something by your bishop you did precisely what you were asked to do, and responsibility went to him, Bishop Michael Clifford told Ireland's RTE radio on Wednesday.

The documentary's findings provoked response from various advocacy groups and government leaders in all of Ireland.

While on paper the Church now has good child protection practices, this documentary casts a shadow on the credibility of Cardinal Brady as a leader of the new policy, Maeve Lewis of One in Four, a charity for victims of sexual abuse, said.

Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter announced he found the findings tragic and disturbing.

Sexual abuse victims' advocate Marie Collins, herself raped by a hospital chaplain in Dublin at 13, has called for Cardinal Brady's resignation.

I'm amazed no bishops have come out and said he should go, the BBC quotes her as saying.

We have priests and theologians being silenced by the Vatican - they can act against people whose views they feel are liberal, but they will not act against someone who not only endangered children but let them be abused, she continued.

Smyth was convicted of sex abuse charges in Northern Ireland and sent to prison in 1994. He died in custody soon after being extradited to the Republic of Ireland in 1997.