Pair Seeks Documents on Pedophile Priest

By Donita Naylor
Providence Journal
December 29, 2009

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

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 Ireland 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 codirector 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 an earlier news conference 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.

Karen Davis, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Providence, said Bishop Tobin was not available for comment Monday and that as far as diocese officials were aware, Smyth was the only Irish priest who served in Rhode Island and had been accused of sexual abuse.

“We are not aware of any allegation made against any other priests from Ireland,” Davis said.

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,” Thomas, 48, said of Father Smyth. Thomas 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.

McGonigle encouraged other survivors to tell their stories.



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