U.S. link to Irish abuse questioned
"The Irish crisis has become our crisis, too," a Boston-area advocate declared.
BOSTON - Victims of clergy sex abuse and a group that tracks pedophile priests called on local Roman Catholic leaders and the Irish government yesterday to publicly detail known connections between the clergy-abuse scandals in the United States and Ireland.
Two Irish bishops resigned on Christmas Day, joining two others who had quit since a government report there in November disclosed how Dublin church leaders had shielded pedophile priests from the law.
Terence McKiernan, codirector 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 yesterday 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 had named only pedophile priests whose crimes were well-documented, using pseudonyms for other priests who were suspected.
Without responding directly to the letter, the archdiocese said in a statement that it had 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.
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, a lawyer now living in Brookfield, Conn., said she had been abused by Smyth, who was accused of preying on children during a 40-year career at parishes in Ireland, Rhode Island, and North Dakota.
McGonigle 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 1994 collapse of the coalition government of Prime Minister Albert Reynolds. Smyth died in prison in 1997, shortly after pleading guilty to 74 counts of sexually abusing children.
The Boston Archdiocese reached an $85 million settlement in 2003 with more than 550 victims of the clergy sex-abuse scandal. In 2002, the Diocese of Providence reached a $14.25 million settlement with 37 alleged victims of sexual abuse in Rhode Island who had sued.