Monday 1 May 2017

Psychiatric treatment advised by priests for Fr Smyth

John Cooney

SENIOR Catholic clerics who failed to alert gardai to child sex attacks in the 1970s instead advised that a notorious paedophile be given psychiatric treatment.

Cardinal Sean Brady has defended his role in the 1975 meeting where two children abused by Fr Brendan Smyth were asked to take a vow of silence as part of an internal investigation by clergy. News of the episode only emerged at the weekend as a result of court proceedings.

A statement issued by the church yesterday repeated claims that the current cardinal was a junior figure at the time, but it also revealed that clergy privy to Smyth's crimes advised psychiatric treatment.

The cardinal -- then a part-time secretary to the then Bishop of Kilmore, the late Bishop Francis McKiernan -- took notes during two meetings with children aged 14 and 15 who he believed had been abused by Smyth.

Smyth was at the centre of one of the first paedophile priest scandals to rock the Catholic Church in Ireland. A seven-month delay in extraditing him to Northern Ireland also collapsed the government in November 1994 when the Labour Party withdrew from its coalition with Fianna Fail over claims that a warrant was withheld.

The repeat offender later admitted a litany of sex attacks on about 90 children in the North and the Republic of Ireland over a 40-year period and was jailed. He died in prison in 1997.

In the statement issued yesterday, the church said it wished to clarify events. The Catholic Communications Office said: "The State's first child abuse guidelines came into effect in 1987 and the church's first guidelines, 'Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response', were published in 1996.

Allegation

"In March 1975, Fr Sean Brady was asked by his bishop, Bishop Francis McKiernan, to conduct a canonical inquiry into an allegation of child sexual abuse which was made by a boy in Dundalk, concerning a Norbertine priest, Fr Brendan Smyth.

"Fr Brady was asked to conduct this canonical inquiry; however he had no decision-making powers regarding the outcome of the inquiry. Bishop McKiernan held this responsibility.

"The specific responsibility for the supervision of Fr Smyth's activities was with his religious superiors. Bishop McKiernan withdrew Brendan Smyth's priestly faculties and advised psychiatric intervention."

Irish Independent

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