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Southern Religion

Silence at the expense of the innocent

Amid Vatican attempts to minimize clerical sexual abuse comes word that Ireland’s most senior Catholic cleric helped conceal and so continue the four-decade criminal career of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

Cardinal Sean Brady admits he was at a meeting where children abused by Smyth were forced to take a vow of silence as part of the coverup. Brady, as a priest and Vatican-trained canon lawyer in 1975 when he interviewed the two children — “one a 10-year-old altar boy, the other a 14-year-old girl.”

Brady never told police about the crimes of which he was aware. He speaks of it now only because he is compelled to by a Dubline lawsuit filed by “Helen McGonigle, 48, who says Smyth repeatedly molested her four decades ago in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.”

As as result of that and other actions, Smyth continued to exploit the trust of his role in the church to molest and rape scores of children in Britain, Ireland and in American dioceses. It was British authorities in Northern Ireland who finally demanded Smyth’s arrest in 1994. He died behind bars.

Yet L’Osservatore Romano stressed last week in a front page editorial, “For the love of truth, the number of incidents involving clergy is very small.” How small? Both the Smyth coverup, the history of the similar scandal on this continent and the progression of revelations sweeping Europe illustrate that we don’t know what the numbers are. Even if we did, the relative numbers would not be the central issue. The issue is the systematic, deliberate, globe-spanning betrayal of trust, which produced a slaughter of the innocents as the resulting psychiatric complications led to the suicide of victims.

The Smyth case offers well-documented examples.

Smyth made priestly instruction of the young who came into his care a nightmare of rape. The Irish Tribune News reports::

In 2006, McGonigle notified the diocese of Providence of the abuse she suffered at the hands of Smyth in Rhode Island . She was informed that she was the sixth person to come forward but there was “no pastoral reason” for making this information public. “I have since located two other victims of Smyth from our parish. I know of a third, a neighbour and my sister’s friend, and if I count my sister, that makes at least nine children. Smyth was caught molesting children at our parish in early 1968, sent to a mental hospital and allowed to return to reoffend. To my knowledge there are two major groupings of us. Those aged six and seven who were one-on-one with Smyth in preparation for taking the sacrament of penance, and those five years older preparing for confirmation.”

The consequences for McGonigle and her family illustrate the price in blood and horror of that kind of priestly abuse of trust. The Irish Tribune News explains:

He also sexually abused her elder sister Kathleen under the pretence of preparing her for the sacrament of penance. Kathleen and Helen’s brother Gerard both died from fatal drug overdoses as a result of the abuse Smyth perpetrated against her family. Her mother also spent time in a mental institution before her death because of the actions of the paedophile priest.

What of other, still undisclosed victims? The Catholic church has refused to release the late priest’s “assignment record” in the US, detailing the parishes where Smyth served. Nor has the Catholic church released the complete list of other, similarly transferred priests and their assignment records. Although a partial list as been accumulated by BishopAccountability.org. Thus the variously-explainedwall of silence‘ continues.

It is a canard to argue that pursuit of the truth in these matters is “Campaign Against the Pope.” That sounds like a demand for silence as each church explanation raises additional questions. After all, silence is what the church enforced for decades, at the expense of the innocent victims.

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March 15, 2010 - Posted by | Catholic, children, Crime | , ,

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