Vatican ‘has blood on hands’ over Smyth affair

An American lawyer who was abused by Fr Brendan Smyth has said that the Vatican has “blood on its hands” for its failure to inform Irish Church authorities that it had censured Smyth for abuse in the United States years before the 1975 secret inquiry.

Helen McGonigle has learnt that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Religious issued a decree that Smyth wasn’t allowed to take Confession and was to be supervised following abuse complaints made in the late 60s.

Yet, in 1975 the Bishop of Kilmore and the Abbot of Killnacrott agreed a similar censure of Smyth — seemingly oblivious that a similar reprimand had already been handed down.

“Why didn’t the bishop or the abbot inform the Papal Nuncio of this second censure? Why weren’t they informed by the Vatican of the original censure? It is very clear that the 1968 censure was not enforced. What does all of this say about the organisation that is the Catholic Church,” Ms McGonigle asked.

Ms McGonigle has pleaded with police on both sides of the border to investigate Cardinal Brady for his possible role in perverting the course of justice and endangering children.

She pointed to current cases being taken against Catholic priests in the US for failing to report abuse allegations to the civil authorities.

“They are enablers, Cardinal Brady and all these priests. That is what they were asked to do and that’s what they have done,” she said.

Helen was a schoolchild when she was abused by Smyth at East Greenwich, Rhode Island. He also abused her sister who died after overdosing on anti-depressants. Her older brother, Gerard, also overdosed and said it was the damage done to his family by Smyth that sent him over the edge.

Helen also believes that her mother was assaulted by Smyth when she suspected a neighbour had been assaulted by the Cavan priest. Her mother suffered a nervous breakdown soon after.

The neighbour Ms McGonigle Snr tried to help is Geoff Thomas. And while Mr Thomas believes that Cardinal Brady must resign over his role in the secret inquiry, Mr Thomas also believes the cardinal is now “a scapegoat” for the rest of the Catholic hierarchy who for decades failed to stop Smyth in his tracks.

Mr Thomas, a contractor, pointed out how after Brady had his Confessional rights rescinded in 1968, he was sent for sex offender treatment. He was then returned to the very same Rhode Island parish.

Mr Thomas was molested by Smyth in a sacristy in 1968 and was raped by him in a garden a year later when he was eight. Now aged 51, he says, “it’s time for the Church to throw its cards on the table and admit its role in this rather than lie and lie again”.

The process

If Cardinal Brady chose to resign, he would have to travel to Rome, where he would have to meet with the Pope and make his offer.

It would then be up to the Pope to accept the offer.

Repeated interviews with senior cardinals in the Vatican suggest even if Cardinal Brady was to make this decision, the Pope will not readily accept it.

It is more likely that in the coming weeks or months, a coadjutor will be appointed to help the cardinal, as he requested two years ago, and this will be this first step in a resignation that is due to take place anyhow in the next two years, when he will be 75.

— Claire O’Sullivan


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