Former N.D. Priest Sentenced
Irish Court Sends Pedophile to Prison for 12-Year Term
By Deena Winter
July 29, 1997
A pedophile priest who spent three years in North Dakota was sentenced Friday in Dublin, Ireland, to 12 years in prison for sexually abusing Irish children over a 36-year period.
The Rev. Brendan Smyth, 70, pleaded guilty to 74 offenses. Smyth, a Dublin native, is also accused of abusing North Dakota children in the early 1980s while serving as a priest in Langdon. He was known as Father John Smythe to Catholic parishioners in Langdon, Park River and Ellendale.
Smythe was sent from Ireland to North Dakota in 1979 and returned to Belfast in 1982, although he vacationed in North Dakota in 1988 -- during which he was accused of attempting to abuse children he allegedly molested earlier -- and again in 1988 and 1990.
After church officials at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Langdon were informed of Smyth's pedophiliac tendencies, six former altar servers alleged improper conduct.
One man in his mid-20s claimed he was sexually abused by Smyth when he was in his early teens. He underwent counseling, paid for by the Fargo diocese, and did not file charges. The other victims -- who church officials said were not as seriously abused -- did not pursue criminal charges either.
Church officials in Northern Ireland sent Smyth to North Dakota even though they knew he was a pedophile. A man who was Smyth's superior for 25 years said he and others thought Smyth's "problem" could be dealt with by reassigning him every two or three years to prevent him from forming "attachments to families and children."
When accusations against Smyth surfaced in 1994, he fled to Ireland and Northern Ireland police filed a request to extradite him. But Irish Attorney General Harry Whelehan didn't act on the request for seven months, enraging some Labor Party members when Whelehan was appointed president of the High Court of the Republic of Ireland by Irish Premier Albert Reynolds. The ensuing controversy prompted Reynolds' resignation and brought down his party's coalition government.
Last week Smyth read an apology in court, expressing "deep sorrow and regret for any psychological hurt or trauma" experienced by his victims.
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