Ex-Priest Defrocked Amid Assault Claims

Associated Press, carried in Washington Post
April 13, 2007

Philadelphia — The Vatican has defrocked a former priest accused of sexually assaulting and whipping boys participating in Passion plays, the Philadelphia archdiocese said.

The Rev. Thomas J. Smith was accused of putting pins in his mouth and pricking the boys until they bled, according to a 2005 grand jury report. He also was accused of whipping boys participating in dramatic representations of the trial, suffering and death of Jesus Christ until they had welts.

The grand jury called Smith's behavior "depraved and sadistic."

Smith's alleged actions took place in various parishes from 1973 through December 2004, when the archdiocese removed him from clerical duties after an investigation of sexual misconduct involving one minor was found credible.

The same 2005 grand jury report accused former Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and other church leaders of covering up decades of abuse by at least 63 priests _ a charge the archdiocese has denied. The grand jury concluded it was too late to bring criminal charges against anyone.

Smith appeared before the grand jury but did not answer the allegations made against him, the report said.

Smith also served as a Boy Scouts chaplain, as chaplain of Archbishop Prendergast High School in Drexel Hill and as an associate director of youth sports, the archdiocese said Thursday.

Smith last lived at St. Francis of Assisi in Springfield. His current location could not be determined.

(Corrects to say the grand jury called Smith's behavior depraved, not the archdiocese.)


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