Priest Abuse Victims Seek More Details on Irish US Cases

By Donita Naylor
Providence Journal
December 28, 2009

Providence -- A man and a woman who say they were molested in the 1960s by an Irish priest in East Greenwich called on the Catholic Church Monday to release more records about pedophilic clergy.

The two -- Jeffrey Thomas, of Massachusetts, and Helen McGonigle, of Connecticut,

say they were raped as children by the Rev. Brendan Smyth, an Irish priest who had been assigned to Our Lady of Mercy, in East Greenwich, from 1965 to 1968.

Smyth had been sent to Rhode Island in 1965 after molesting children in Northern Ireland. He was eventually charged with 74 counts in the Republic of Ireland and 17 in Northern Ireland. He died in prison in 1997 at age 70.

Thomas and McGonigle took part in a news conference on the steps of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, in Providence, along with Terrence McKiernan, founder and co-director of, a group that tracks pedophilic clergy, and Joe Rigert, author of "The Irish Tragedy, How Sex Abuse By Irish Priests Helped Cripple The Catholic Church." .

The four, who had held a similar news conference Monday morning in Boston, said they want the Church to release more information about Irish priests accused of sexual misconduct.

Four bishops have resigned in Ireland since a separate report was made public in November showing that pedophilic priests were sheltered by the archdiocese in Dublin.

On Monday, the group posted a list of Irish priests who have worked in the United States and have been accused of sexual misconduct. And sent letters to Cardinal Sean O'Malley of the Boston archdiocese and Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Providence diocese, asking that they search their personnel files for information about accused Irish priests who had served in their areas.

According to the Associated Press, Karen Davis, a spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, said church officials were not aware of any allegations made against Irish priests who served in the diocese except for Smyth.

Davis said Bishop Tobin was not available to comment Monday, but she re-issued his 2008 statement, which said, in part:

"The Catholic Church in Rhode Island takes very seriously all allegations regarding clergy abuse and has been in the forefront of instituting and improving policies and procedures for preventing sexual abuse, educating personnel and investigating allegations. The diocese has adopted and implemented the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and successfully completed and passed audits in compliance with the Charter."

The Diocesan Office of Education and Compliance vigorously investigates allegations and is in frequent contact with law enforcement agencies and the Department for Children Youth and Families. The Diocesan Office of Outreach works with victims to help them obtain the counseling they need. Our programs and policies in this regard are available to the public on the diocesan Web site at Additionally, the diocese regularly encourages all parishes - not just those where past instances of abuse allegedly occurred - to provide information relative to how an allegation of abuse may be reported and investigated."

Thomas and McGonigle said the abuse they suffered more than four decades ago still has a daily profound effect.

"I'm a survivor of being molested and raped by the biggest monster in the Catholic church," said Thomas, 48, about Father Smyth. He said he had stomach cramps and bleeding when he recalled the abuse and still finds it difficult to concentrate and to sleep.

McGonigle, also 48, said she and her sister Kathleen were raped by the same priest. Kathleen died of an overdose in 2005, McGonigle said.

Calling the lasting effects of sex abuse "more profound than anybody could imagine," McGonigle encouraged other survivors to tell their stories. "It's never too late for a victim to tell a story and get support," she said. "The people around them should give them social support. It's a very difficult thing to go through."


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