Rev. Brendan Smyth, O.Praem (alias John Smythe, G.B. Smyth, Fr. Gerry, John Gerard Smyth)

Summary of Case: Smyth sexually abused children throughout his decades long career as a priest in Ireland and the U.S. He may also have abused in Scotland, Wales and Italy. He is estimated to have victimized hundreds of boys and girls. His Norbertine superiors acknowledged having known of his pedophilia, while repeatedly transferring him from country to country and state to state. Smyth was convicted in 1994 in Northern Ireland. He was extradited to the Irish Republic in 1997 where he was convicted again, and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He died in prison in August 1997.

Ordained: 1951
Died: August 1997


Start Stop Assignment Town/Accusations State/Country Position Notes
1951 1965  


A 1994 television documentary broadcast in Ireland showed that Smyth had been abusing children since the 1950s, and that his superiors knew and covered up for him. (Boston Globe, August 24, 1997)

Sexually abused five girls and three boys while assigned to a parish in Belfast. (National Catholic Reporter, December 2, 1994) The children were from the same family, and the abuse occurred over a 30 year period. (Bismarck Tribune, November 26, 1994)

Republic of Ireland

Northern Ireland




Smyth is not indexed in the 1952-1965 Directories.

Smyth's pedophilia is said to have first surfaced in 1945, prior to ordination. (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, June 24, 2008)


Providence bishop was Russell Joseph McVinney (1948-1971).


Our Lady of Mercy

briefly in 1965 at
St. John's in Providence, according to the Providence diocese list

East Greenwich

The diocese said in 2007 that it had received eight complaints about Smyth. (East Greenwich Pendulum, October 25, 2007)

In 2006 Helen McGonigle, a CT attorney, disclosed to the diocese that Smyth had sexually abused her as a child, beginning when she was in 1st grade and attending Our Lady of Mercy School in 1967. She said that Smyth threatened her with death if she told. (WBUR, January 27, 2010)

Ms. McGonigle believes her sister was also been abused as a child by Smyth. The sister, who died of an overdose in 2005 at age 49, had told their father that "Fr. Gerry" taught her to drink. Their brother also died of an overdose, which Ms. McGonigle believes was a result of the effect on the family of Smyth's abuse. (Tribune, January 31, 2010)

Ms. McGonigle learned that two of her former neighbors had also been victimized by Smyth. (East Greenwich Pendulum, October 25, 2007)

Smyth was named in a 2008 lawsuit as having molested and sodomized a second grade boy in the 1967 or 1968 at Our Lady of Mercy. (Providence Journal, June 17, 2008) overdose.

RI 3/3

Smyth is not indexed in the 1966-1968 Directories, but he is listed in the Providence diocesan pages as at Our Lady of Mercy, as Brendan Smythe, O.Praem (Ireland).

Parish had a school with 313-282 boys and 258-329 girls.

Smyth called himself "Father Gerry". His birth name was John Gerard Smyth.

He was known to have spent "hour after hour of unofficial attention to the for involvement with the CYO and Girl Scouts" at this parish.

Smyth continued to visit RI every few years until 1992 or 1993. (Providence Journal-Bulletin, February 6, 1995)

In 1968 Providence priest, Fr. Bruno Mulvihlill, reported Smyth's crimes to the bishop. No one alerted parisioners or the police. (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests
June 24, 2008)

1968 1979        

Smyth is not indexed in the 1969-1980 Directories.

He was sent by his order for psychiatric treatment in 1968 at Purdysburg Hospital in Belfast, in 1973 to St. Patrick's Psychiatric Hospital in Dublin and in 1974 he was institutionalized at Stroud in Gloucestershire England. (Providence Journal-Bulletin, February 6, 1995)


Fargo bishop was Justin Albert Driscoll (1970-1984).

1982 St. Alphonsus


Smyth is accused of sexually abusing children in North Dakota. (Associated Press, July 26, 1997)

ND 1/1, 1/2 Smyth is indexed in the 1981 and 1982 Directories as Rev. John G.B. Smyth, P. Procm. [sic] (Ireland). Parish had a school with 162-160 students.
1980 1982 St. Edwards Nekoma ND   This was a mission of St. Alphonsus in Langdon.
      Ellendale ND    
      Park River ND    


Down and Connor bishop was Cahal Brendan Daly (1982-1990).

1990   Belfast Northern Ireland  

Smyth is not indexed in the 1983-1997 Directories.

He returned to Belfast in 1982.

Smyth was treated from 1989 until late 1993 by a Dublin psychologist. (Providence Journal-Bulletin, February 6, 1995)

He was arrested in 1990 in Northern Ireland, was released on bail, then fled to the Republic of Ireland. (Boston Globe
August 24, 1997)


Kerry bishop was Diarmaid (Dermot) O'Suilleabhain (O'Sullivan 1985-1994).

1993 Tralee Hospital   Republic of Ireland chaplain  

Aug. 3, 1991

Boston archbishop was Bernard Francis Law (1994-2002).

Aug. 4, 1991 St. Camillus Arlington MA   Smyth was granted permission for two days in the Boston archdiocese to do mission appeals. (The Pilot, January 29, 2010)
1993 1994         Police in Northern Ireland filed an extradition warrant in 1993.


Down and Connor bishop was Patrick Joseph Walsh (1991-2008).

March 1997 Magilligan Prison   Northern Ireland inmate

Smyth was convicted in Northern Ireland in 1994 of sexually abusing dozens of children and was sent to prison. (Boston Globe, August 24, 1997)

His conviction in brought down the Irish government. There had been a 7 month delay in extraditing Smyth from the Irish republic to Northern Ireland which led to the political crisis. (Bismarck Tribune
November 26, 1994)


Kildare and Leighen bishop was Laurence Ryan (1987-2002).

1997 Curragh Prison   Republic of Ireland inmate

His order, the Norbertines, admitted they knew for decades that Smyth had "a problem with children", and that they did not warn the bishops in RI or ND of this. (Providence Journal-Bulletin, February 6, 1995)

After completing his four year sentence in Northern Ireland in March 1997, Smyth was convicted again, this time in the Republic of Ireland, for sexually abusing children over a 36 year period. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison. (Associated Press, July 26, 1997)

Smyth died in prison in August 1997.

: Official Catholic Directory (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1952-1997)

Priests in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample page from the Directory.

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.

This assignment record collates Smyth's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with allegations as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegation we report, and we remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.

This assignment record was last updated on July 4, 2019.