American group seeks details on Ireland, US clergy abuse cases
BOSTON - Victims of clergy sex abuse and a group that tracks pedophile priests called on local Roman Catholic leaders and the Irish government Monday to publicly detail known connections between the clergy abuse scandals in the U.S. and Ireland.
Two Irish bishops resigned on Christmas Day, joining two others who had quit since a government report in November revealed how Dublin church leaders had shielded pedophile priests from the law.
Terence McKiernan, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, said the report detailed evidence that some accused priests in Ireland had been transferred to parishes in the United States.
"Unfortunately the places they have been moving include our backyard," said McKiernan, who spoke at a news conference held in front of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the residence of Cardinal Sean O'Malley of the Boston archdiocese.
"So the Irish crisis has become our crisis, too," McKiernan said.
The organization said it was creating the first-ever database of Irish priests accused of sexual misconduct who had spent time in U.S. dioceses. It sent letters Monday to O'Malley and Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Providence, R.I. diocese, asking that they scour their own personnel files.
"It's imperative that you release a complete list of all credibly accused Irish priests who were transferred to the Boston archdiocese," the letter to O'Malley stated.
"And you would serve both children and the church by exhorting your fellow bishops in New England to follow your example," stated the letter, which did not name any names. McKiernan said he was unaware of any accused Irish priests who are active today in U.S. dioceses.
The letter, which also was signed by the head of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the Irish report only named pedophile priests whose crimes were well documented, using pseudonyms for other suspected priests.
Without responding directly to the letter, the archdiocese said in a statement that it has established "comprehensive policies and procedures" to protect children from sexual abuse, including a provision that any priest moving to the archdiocese from another jurisdiction be certified by his former bishop as having no past allegations of abuse.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to those in Ireland who have been harmed by the tragic reality of sexual abuse of children by clergy," the statement read. "We know from our own experience the profound impact and suffering caused by the harm perpetrated on children and young people."
Karen Davis, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Providence, said church officials were not aware of any allegations made against a priest from Ireland who served in the diocese except for the Rev. Brendan Smyth in the 1960s.
Helen McGonigle, an attorney now living in Brookfield, Conn., said she was abused by Smyth, who was accused of preying on children during a 40-year career at parishes in Ireland, Rhode Island and North Dakota.
"He started molesting me in the first grade, when I was 6, he molested five other individuals, he molested my neighbor, said McGonigle, who said the abuse occurred while Smyth was assigned to Our Lady of Mercy parish in East Greenwich, R.I.
The Irish Republic's seven-month delay in extraditing Smyth to Northern Ireland after allegations of sexual abuse surfaced led to the collapse of the coalition government of Prime Minister Albert Reynolds in 1994. Smyth died in prison in 1997, shortly after pleading guilty to 74 counts of sexually abusing children.
Jeffrey Thomas, a neighbor of McGonigle who also said he was abused by Smyth, filed a lawsuit in 2008 against the Diocese of Providence and others.
"It is time for the church to change direction," Thomas said. "We can't keep sweeping it under the rug."
Among the several dozen names on the BishopAccountability.org database is that of the Rev. Joseph Maguire, who served in several parishes in New Hampshire and also lived in Massachusetts, Maine and Ireland. Maguire died in 2005, 10 months after beginning a 44-month prison sentence for raping three altar boys in Dover, N.H.
BishopAccountability.org also sent a letter Monday to Prime Minister Brian Cowen, asking the government to extend its investigation beyond Dublin to all other dioceses in Ireland, and to release a complete list of all offending Irish priests who were transferred to dioceses in America.
The Boston Archdiocese reached an $85 million settlement in 2003 with more than 550 victims of the clergy sex abuse scandal, which resulted in the resignation of O'Malley's predecessor, Cardinal Bernard Law. In 2002, the Diocese of Providence reached a $14.25 million settlement with 37 alleged victims of sexual abuse in Rhode Island who filed lawsuits.