Hierarchy not told of Smyth's new post in hospital
Published 14/04/2010 | 05:00
CHURCH authorities were kept completely in the dark about the fact paedophile priest Brendan Smyth had taken up a temporary position as chaplain at a busy hospital.
Smyth -- a Norbertine cleric -- sought and secured a temporary position at the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) to fill in for a hospital chaplain who was battling serious illness in 1992/93.
Smyth was already on the run from police in Northern Ireland in relation to multiple child abuse allegations.
The Cork-based chaplain agreed to allow Smyth fill in for him while he battled illness, and Smyth produced a "letter of validation" from the Norbertine Order which was crucial to securing the position.
However, the chaplain was totally unaware of Smyth's background, and the church hierarchy was never notified of the temporary appointment.
Tragically, the chaplain later died and Smyth ultimately spent almost seven months in Cork and later worked for a brief period at Tralee General Hospital in a similar role.
The Irish Independent has now learnt that the then Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr Michael Murphy, received no information about Smyth's work at the MUH in 1993.
Smyth did not notify either the church hierarchy or the Diocese of Cork and Ross, and neither was aware that Smyth was already the focus of an arrest warrant in Northern Ireland dating back to 1991.
In the 1980s and 90s, Irish chaplains had the right to secure their own temporary replacements and, because of the short-term nature of such appointments, diocesan authorities were routinely never informed of them.
But the church has since changed that system and all such appointments must now be fully vetted and approved by diocesan authorities.
In each case, a cleric aspiring to such a chaplaincy position must submit a letter to the diocese from his own bishop showing that he is in good standing.
A major probe revealed no concerns about Smyth's work in Cork or Kerry in the 1990s.
An MUH spokesman confirmed that the issue of the cleric's work at the Cork hospital was addressed 15 years ago.
"The Southern Health Board (SHB) set up a process to discover whether Smyth's temporary chaplaincy at a number of hospitals had led to any issues of concern," he said.
"The SHB fully disclosed details of Smyth's presence in a number of hospitals and provided a help line to facilitate calls, queries or concerns. No issues of concern were reported to MUH arising from that process," he added.
Similarly, the Health Service Executive (HSE) -- which succeeded the SHB -- confirmed that no issues of concern had arisen from Brendan Smyth's short time in Tralee.
His work at the Kerry hospital was substantially shorter than his time in Cork and amounted to only a matter of weeks.
Smyth was finally arrested by gardai and extradited back to Northern Ireland in 1994.
He was convicted of child molestation charges and sentenced to seven years in prison.
Smyth died in prison of a massive heart attack in 1997 at the age of 70 with further allegations against him still being investigated.
But it remains unclear how Smyth got the crucial letter of validation from his order.