Archdiocese Says Accused Irish Priests Were Transferred to Boston

By Deborah Becker
January 27, 2010

BOSTON (MA) -- For the first time, the Boston Archdiocese has confirmed that some priests who were accused of sexual abuse in Ireland were then transferred to Boston. An Irish government report last year outlined rampant clergy sex abuse in Ireland, but the Boston Archdiocese has never before acknowledged that any of those priests worked here.

The Archdiocese released a statement Tuesday saying that three accused priests from Ireland did, at one time, work in the Boston Archdiocese. It only named the priests, without giving further information about where or when they worked here. But the Archdiocese did say it was unaware of any abuse accusations against the three men and that no similar allegations were made against them in Boston.

Terry McKiernan, with the group, wants more details about the priests. "It's a bit of surprise and not really a surprise," McKiernan said. "It seems to me a shame that this is still the way things are working. Surely the Boston Archdiocese by now should know it needs to come forward, it needs to come clean about situations like this."

The late priest Brendan Smyth was accused of molesting children in Ireland, Britain, North Dakota and Rhode Island. In this undated file photo, Smyth leaves a courthouse in northern Ireland. has been documenting the U.S. clergy sex abuse scandal. After the Irish government released its report (PDF) on rampant clergy sex abuse last year, started asking questions about what may have happened on this side of the Atlantic.

Last month it published a list of about 70 priests it said were either born in Ireland or are of Irish descent and who re-offended children in the U.S. Among them was a notorious abuser, the late Brendan Smyth, who was accused of molesting children in Ireland, Britain, North Dakota and Rhode Island.

Helen McGonigle, now an attorney in Connecticut, alleges that Smyth abused her when she was six years old and he was at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Rhode Island. "He molested me in school, in church and in my home," she said. "When he first molested me, he told me I can't tell anybody becuase his finger was the finger of God. That if I told anybody, I would end up like the body in the woods. It was a death threat. He was a monster."

McGonigle said Smyth abused her after he was sent back to Rhode Island following his treatment in Ireland for abusing children. She has an active lawsuit pending against the Providence Diocese. The Providence Diocese says it has referred the issue to its child protection advisory board, which meets next month.

The priest, Brendan Smyth, died in prison in Dublin shortly after his 1997 conviction on charges of abusing dozens of children. "I am outraged," McGonigle said. "Because if he abused so many kids in Ireland and my parish, it's not a leap of faith to suspect that he abused kids in the Boston Archdiocese."

The Boston Archdiocese, which would not go on tape for this story, maintained there were no similar abuse allegations against Smyth or the other two Irish priests during the time they worked in Boston. The Archdiocese did say one current Irish priest is alleged to have abused a child here some 30 years ago and is now under investigation. The Archdiocese said law enforcement and the priest's religious order have been notified. But it gave no further details.

Olan Horne works with clergy sex abuse survivors in Massachusetts. Two years ago he met with the pope to talk about the clergy sex abuse crisis. He is outraged that the Vatican and the pope have not taken stronger action following the Irish government's report on the abuse.

"It's Groundhog Day all over again, and it keeps happening again and again," he said.

Horne also said the Boston Archdiocese and the pope should respond to clergy sex abuse survivors and come forward with the personnel records of priests from Ireland who have worked, and may still be working, in Boston.

"There needs to be a response, and one thing sorely missing, especially from the Vatican, is that survivors should be front and center," Horne said. "He needs to hear from a large group of people about what needs to be done. People are outraged across the globe about the Catholic church and how it handles itself and continues to handle itself. "

Horne expects that dozens of survivors will try to meet with the pope this fall to push for more transparency about how the Ireland priest scandal may have affected churches around the world. And said it will continue to press Catholic officials in Boston and Rhode Island for more details about their priests.


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