He abused boy while training in Rome… yet he was still allowed to prey on kids for 40 more years
By Deborah McAleese – 23 June 2015
The Catholic Church has been accused of “protecting their own” rather than the child abuse victims of notorious paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.
Decades of failures by individuals and Church institutions to deal with Smyth and prevent further abuse are currently under examination by the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI).
During a day of shocking revelations yesterday, it emerged that suspicions within the Catholic Church about the serial child abuser were discussed even before he was ordained into the priesthood.
The inquiry team was told that the Church had been aware of allegations that Smyth had abused a young boy in Rome while he was there studying as a student priest.
His superiors within the Norbertine Order ignored warnings from a senior priest in Rome not to ordain him, the inquiry heard.
For 40 years after his ordination he targeted, groomed and sexually abused children in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the United States, even though many within the Catholic Church were aware of his crimes.
A lawyer for the HIAI said yesterday there were “devastating consequences” to the decision by individuals and institutions “to protect their own rather than our children.”
Counsel Joseph Aiken said that Smyth’s name was “notorious in this jurisdiction and beyond” and that “the culture of secrecy and silence failed the children”.
“The Roman Catholic Church can only look back on this with shame and in disgrace,” he added.
Smyth joined the Norbertine Order in 1945 at the age of 18. He became the first member of the Order in Ireland to be accepted to study at the Curia Generalizia Collegio in Rome prior to his ordination.
It was revealed yesterday that while in Rome, members of the Norbertine Order became aware of allegations that Smyth had sexually abused a young boy in the vicinity of the college.
Photographs of young Italian boys were also allegedly found in his room.
A senior priest in Rome warned Smyth’s superiors against his ordination, but this advice was ignored.
In a letter dated April 1951, prior to his ordination, one of Smyth’s superiors told another member of the Norbertine Order “it would be a shame to see our first student failing in Rome”.
He was ordained on July 31, 1951. Four decades later he was convicted of more than 140 offences against children.
Shortly after his ordination, one of Smyth’s superiors wrote to him and raised concerns about his behaviour.
“The time is too short to enquire about your spirit but I’m inclined to believe that the opinion of the Abbott General (who warned against his ordination) is the truth. It would be lost money and time to send you back to Rome. There’s no question you will go your own way afterward,” he wrote.
The Brother added: “How is it possible that so soon after your ordination I have to send you such a letter … As long as you don’t see it there’s no hope for improving.”
The inquiry heard that paedophile Smyth was sent for psychiatric treatment, including electric shock therapy, on a number of occasions.