Sunday 22 January 2017

Victims recall horror of abuse and call on prelate to resign his post

Published 16/03/2010 | 05:00

THEIR innocence was stolen by the notorious paedophile priest Brendan Smyth -- but three of Smyth's victims yesterday united to call on Cardinal Sean Brady to take personal responsibility for his role in allowing the serial child abuser to continue on his destructive path.

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The youngest victim was just six-years-old, the eldest 13, when they were abused.

He sought them out in their family homes, in their schools, and in a care home.

Each was left traumatised by their experiences. But now -- as adults -- they are determined that those who covered up for their abuser will be called to account.

While the church investigation into Smyth in 1975 came too late for many children, countless more could have been saved. It is for that reason that they believe Cardinal Brady has "blood on his hands" and should resign.

Helen McGonigle

HELEN McGonigle was just six-years-old and preparing for the sacrament of penance when she was abused by Smyth, who led her from her classmates into the sacristy of the church where he molested her.

Her sister, Kathleen, was also abused by the Belfast-born priest in their hometown of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, in the US. Unable to cope with the trauma of her devastated childhood, she took her own life as an adult.

Smyth was already known to have sexually molested children when he was sent to the McGonigles' parish in the summer of 1965. Using his usual modus operandi, he befriended the family and they bonded over a shared Irish ancestry.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Ms McGonigle, who is an attorney living in Connecticut, said: "From 1967 until about 1970 he molested me. He was caught in my parish molesting children as early as 1968.

"It was in the spring of 1967, when myself and a neighbour were going through training to get the sacrament of penance, that he would pick us out one by one and bring us to the sacristy of the church to abuse us."

While any intervention by Cardinal Brady in 1975 would have been too late to save the children of East Greenwich, Ms McGonigle said many others could have been protected.

"Cardinal Brady has blood on his hands. He came to this with unclean hands.

"So many lives and children could have been spared. We know the reports of the number of Brendan Smyth's victims who committed suicide or attempted suicide."

She said Cardinal Brady must resign and he should be charged with obstruction of justice.

"He sat on this knowledge for 35 years, from 1975 through to 2010, and Brendan Smith continued to abuse children. It is only because of the lawsuit one of his victims has brought that he has had to show his hand."

She added: "How this is unfolding, we're seeing what the real church is. The real church has orchestrated this for decades. People need to take their church back."

'Samantha' (not her real name)

SAMANTHA repressed the abuse she had suffered at the hands of Smyth for almost 20 years before it suddenly resurfaced in the form of terrifying flashbacks.

"I was raped, abused and had pictures taken of my body. I was 13 when it began in 1974 and it went on for five years," she said.

Smyth, dressed in his habit, visited her convent boarding school, said Mass there and used these trips to subject his victim to horrendous abuse.

Samantha, who is married and living in the north-east of the country, believes two other schoolgirls committed suicide after they too were abused by Smyth. She herself has made many attempts at self-harm.

She blames Cardinal Brady for what happened to her after 1975 and while people may say the situation then was different from today, she responds: "Rape 35 years ago is the same as rape today. The legacy of pain and torture is the same. To say it happened 35 years ago doesn't hold with me or the two girls in the ground.

"If he (Cardinal Brady) had done something, my life could have been so different. The next four years of torture and hell was completely avoidable and wouldn't have happened if he had done what he was supposed to do and protect children."

Samantha wants a nationwide investigation into all parishes to root out and get rid of all abusers. She also challenged Cardinal Brady to meet her face-to-face and "say to me 'I did the right thing'".

"The reality is he was an adult and he didn't protect children. It is the right thing for him to resign, but I wouldn't lower myself to ask him. He is not worth my breath and I am obviously not worth his," she said.

"I would not sit in a room with that man knowing he allowed me to be raped and abused by his inactions.

"Sean Brady asked a 14-year-old to sign a form of secrecy -- and that's what all abusers do. To ask a child (to sign it) is to collude in what Smyth has been doing. All they wanted to do was cover their arses. I think those who protect abusers are worse than the abusers."

Sam Adair

TEN-year-old Sam and the other residents of the children's home, Nazareth Lodge, in Belfast were particularly vulnerable as they had no family to fight for them when Smyth came calling.

"The likes of us have nobody to defend us. We were raised by nuns and Christian Brothers so we were free game for all of these priests to abuse."

He was anally raped by Smyth, forced to masturbate him and subjected to other degradations. The abuse happened "within five minutes of meeting this man".

For his young victims there was no defence against Smyth. As a priest, he was in a position of authority, a man supposedly come from God.

"It would make you wonder does this come from the devil, or does this come from God? When you're abused, the effects of it are with you to the grave," he added.

Smyth had no role at the children's home, but was made welcome by those running it and regularly stayed the night.

For the next five years, Mr Adair was repeatedly brutalised. He believes the full extent of the abuse perpetrated by priests and members of the religious orders in Northern Ireland has not yet come out. Mr Adair described the clerical sex abuse scandal as the "Holocaust of the Roman Catholic Church" and said Cardinal Sean Brady must stand aside.

"I think he would have to resign. He's done nothing for victims and now he is personally involved. It is the children, who are now adults, who have revealed this," he added.

He said he was particularly sickened that two of Smyth's victims were told to sign secrecy agreements during the church's investigation.

"To hush children up about such heinous crimes instead of reporting it to the proper authorities, no matter what his (Cardinal Brady's) position in the Catholic Church at the time, it does not excuse him in any way."

Mr Adair said he feared what was already known about Smyth was just the tip of the iceberg.

Irish Independent

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