Wednesday 7 December 2016

Priest who blew whistle on Smyth estranged from order

Grainne Cunningham

Published 17/03/2010 | 05:00

AS the scandal of Brendan Smyth rocks the Catholic Church here once more, the man who acted as key whistleblower of his paedophilia is often forgotten.

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Unlike Cardinal Sean Brady, who climbed the ranks of the hierarchy after his involvement with Smyth's victims, the man who sought to out the notorious abuser died in a foreign land, estranged from his order.

Fr Bruno Mulvihill was a 19-year-old novice of the Norbertine Order when he first tried to warn his abbot about Fr Smyth in 1964. He overheard peculiar noises coming from the sacristy and reported them to the then Abbot Fr Felim Colwell. He was told he was "imagining things".

Four years later, in 1968, Fr Mulvihill was acting as Abbot Colwell's secretary when he answered an early morning telephone call from Russell J McVinney, the Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, in the USA.

Because the abbot was too ill to come to the phone, the bishop asked Fr Mulvihill to pass him an urgent message.

"He said Brendan Smyth was being put on a plane back to Ireland in disgrace after it was discovered that he had been sexually abusing children in Providence, Rhode Island," Fr Mulvihill told UTV journalist Chris Moore, who was making a documentary about Smyth.

The importance of Fr Mulvihill's revelations about Smyth are documented in Mr Moore's book on the paedophile priest, 'Betrayal of Trust'.

He said it was the first time he had encountered "somebody who seemed prepared to open" but what clinched it for him was Fr Mulvihill's "readiness to open his files" to reveal his written record of many of the warnings he gave about Smyth.

In 1995, Rev Kevin Smith, the Norbertine abbot who was Smyth's superior for 25 years, admitted Smyth had abused children in two parishes in the US to which he was dispatched.

Rev Smith stated in a letter to UTV television about Smyth's time in America: "On neither occasion was the bishop of the diocese to which he was sent notified of (Smyth's) propensity to molest children.



Warning

"On both occasions, Fr Smyth offended against young parishioners," the abbot said. "I acknowledge that I, as his religious superior, committed a grave error in sending him abroad without warning the bishop to whom I sent him."

Meanwhile, by the time UTV's 'Counterpoint' programme exposed the inaction of Smyth's superiors, Fr Mulvihill was estranged from his order.

It is understood that he died in a car crash in Germany in 2004, aged 59. Originally from Co Galway, he was an ambitious pupil, full of enthusiasm for the life he chose as a servant of God. But according to one report, his decision to report the paedophile priest resulted in him being almost as disliked by his fellow Norbertines as the serial child abuser.

Irish Independent

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