Smyth acted as chaplain despite being on the run
Published 02/04/2010 | 05:00
Embattled Cardinal Sean Brady will now come under further pressure to explain how paedophile priest Brendan Smyth was allowed to act as a chaplain at Cork and Kerry hospitals almost three years after going on the run from a sex abuse probe in Northern Ireland.
The priest worked in two Catholic hospitals in spite of Cardinal Brady's claim to take "fairly decisive" action banning the notorious paedophile monk from public ministry.
Smyth -- a Norbertine Order cleric at Kilnacrott Abbey in Co Cavan -- was arrested in the North in 1991 for questioning about multiple sex abuse complaints but fled to the Republic on his release from custody.
The Irish Independent has learned that for around seven months in 1992/93, the fugitive cleric worked as a temporary chaplain at two hospitals in Cork and Kerry. During his chaplaincy, he prayed with the sick, allegedly administered the Last Rites in one case and, in a disturbing new development, offered his services as a chaplain to a Cork all-girl secondary school.
Smyth secured the position of part-time chaplain in Cork's Mercy Hospital and Kerry's Tralee General on foot of a "letter of validation" secured from his own Norbertine Order.
The letter was issued despite the fact the order was aware that abuse allegations had been levelled against Smyth dating back as far as the 1940s.
"Without the letter of validation, Smyth would have found it virtually impossible to secure chaplaincy duties at any Irish hospital," another source stressed last night.
Last month Cardinal Brady confirmed that 35 years ago he swore to secrecy two teenagers who had levelled abuse allegations against Smyth at a special church inquiry.
Cardinal Brady, then a priest in Co Cavan, said he conducted the inquiry into Smyth on behalf of the Bishop of Kilmore, Francis McKiernan, in whose diocese Kilnacrott Abbey was situated.
The cardinal sent an urgent report to Bishop McKiernan stating he believed the children's allegations.
"Within three weeks he (Dr McKiernan) was able to go to Kilnacrott Abbey with the evidence and say he was withdrawing the diocesan faculties from Smyth, which meant that he was no longer permitted to practice, to minister publicly as a priest, not alone in the diocese of Kilmore but in any diocese," Cardinal Brady recalled last month.
But Cardinal Brady's judgment of stopping Smyth in 1975 from working in any of Ireland's 26 dioceses has been challenged by a witness who saw Smyth act as a chaplain in the Mercy Hospital in Cork almost 18 years later.
"My elderly aunt was seriously ill in the Mercy Hospital during the autumn/winter of 1993," said the witness, who did not wish to be named.
"I remember attending the hospital morgue to collect her remains and the priest who was serving there as 'temporary' chaplain and said the prayers over her coffin, was none other than Brendan Smyth."
In early 1994 Smyth was finally arrested by gardai and extradited back to the North. He was convicted of child molestation charges and sentenced to seven years in prison.
Smyth died in prison in 1997 at the age of 70 with further allegations against him still being investigated. It is now believed that he abused more than 100 children. Last night, the Health Service Executive (HSE) said there were no investigations ongoing in relation to Smyth's time at Tralee General Hospital (TGH).
A HSE spokesman explained that Smyth's time at TGH was "quite brief" -- believed to be little more than a fortnight.
The Mercy Hospital -- now known as the Mercy University Hospital (MUH), which has merged with the South Infirmary-Victoria University Hospital (SIVUH) -- is a voluntary facility and not under direct SHB/HSE control.
Smyth is understood to have worked as a temporary chaplain at the Mercy for around six months.
A diocesan spokesman was unavailable for comment on the matter yesterday or on whether the Norbertines ever forwarded a copy of the letter of validation to the church hierarchy.
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