Legacy of Smyth Abuse Still Felt As New Lawsuit Filed

By Jerome Reilly
Irish Independent
June 22, 2008

WHEN Fr Brendan Smyth left America in 1968, the local paper praised his pastoral works and the "hour after hour of unofficial attention to the girl scouts".

Now 40 years on, another wave of litigation against his Order has begun in Providence, Rhode Island, where Smyth was sent from Ireland -- despite his previously known prediliction for sexually abusing children.

Last week court documents were lodged in the Providence Superior Court by lawyers representing a Massachusetts man.

Jeffrey Thomas filed the lawsuit against the Diocese of Providence and others. He claims he was abused at an East Greenwich parish school by Smyth.

Smyth died in prison in 1997, shortly after pleading guilty to 74 counts of sexually abusing 20 boys and girls between 1958 and 1993

Mr Thomas said that 14 months ago memories came back to him when he saw a picture of Smyth online.

"The problems that I've had over the years -- Massachusetts General Hospital had to take half of my stomach out, I've had sleep apnea -- all makes sense. The list of medical things goes on. This was the missing piece," he said.

The Diocese of Providence said it was saddened by the revelations, but said Smyth was never a priest of the diocese and was asked to return to Ireland when he was in Rhode Island, the Boston Globe reported.

Smyth spent a number of years in the US. He spent three years as a priest at Our Lady of Mercy parish in East Greenwich, ending in 1968 .

He also spent time in North Dakota.

Thirteen years ago, the Norbertine Abbot who was Smyth's superior for 25 years, Rev Kevin Smith, admitted Brendan Smyth had abused children in both US locations.

Rev Smith stated in a letter to UTV television about Smyth's time in America: "On neither occasion was the bishop of the diocese to which he was sent notified of [Smyth's] propensity to molest children."

"On both occasions, Fr Smyth offended against young parishioners," the abbot said. "I acknowledge that I, as his religious superior, committed a grave error in sending him abroad without warning the bishop to whom I sent him."

According to the papers filed in Providence Superior Court last week, Jeffrey Thomas is suing the Canons Regular of Premontre, the Premonstatensian Fathers, the Nobertine Fathers and the Bishop of Rhode Island.

Mr Thomas's lawyers allege the defendants "knew Smyth had sexually molested numerous children and that Smyth was a danger to children before Smyth molested and/or sexually abused Mr Thomas". Mr Thomas was about seven at the time.

They say their client "continues to suffer from great pain of the mind and body, shock, emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self esteem and disgrace. He was also prevented, and is still prevented, from obtaining full enjoyment of life."


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