Abbot accused of lying about Fr Brendan Smyth
Evidence given by former Norbertines head concerning priest challenged at inquiry
File photograph of former abbot of the Norbertine Order and Brendan Smyth’s superior, Kevin Smith, who told police he did not realise at the time that paedophilia was a crime.
He told police it wasn’t until 1989 that he first became aware that Smyth abused children.
Junior counsel for the inquiry Joseph Aiken, however, said Abbot Smith in 1994 told UTV journalist Chris Moore, who first exposed Smyth’s activities, that the paedophile priest received medical treatment for his sexual proclivities in 1968 and 1973 and that he received “institutionalised” treatment in 1974.
Abbot Smith also told Moore that Smyth’s behaviour had “perplexed and troubled our community over many years”.
“We always hoped that a combination of treatment, Fr Smyth’s intelligence, and the grace of God would enable Fr Smyth to overcome his disorder,” he said. “We did not adequately understand the compulsive nature of his behaviour or the serious damage it could cause.”
Mr Aiken provided an account of the interview Abbot Smith gave to the RUC in 1997 about Smyth. He said 1989 was the first time he learned he was an abusive priest.
According to Mr Aiken, Abbot Smith was then asked by police: “Are you saying this was the first time you were aware that Fr Smyth was interfering with children North and South?”
He replied: “Yes.”
Mr Aiken said it was “difficult to say anything other than this is simply a lie told to police officers in Northern Ireland who were investigating the former abbot’s behaviour”.
Abbot Smith said “the RUC were in no doubt that the former abbot had simply lied to them about the state of his knowledge of Smyth’s criminality”.
Abbot Smith told police he did not realise at the time paedophilia was a crime.
“I did not realise it was a criminal offence. If I had realised it was a criminal offence, I would have reported it. At that time, I did not know what paedophilia was.”
Abbot Smith will not be giving oral evidence to the inquiry this week. However, today Fr William Fitzgerald of Kilnacrott will appear before the inquiry, as will Fr Donal Kilduff, chancellor and diocesan secretary to the Diocese of Kilmore.
Evidence of abuse
On Thursday former Catholic archbishop Cardinal Seán Brady is due to give evidence.
The inquiry is likely to hear evidence about how in 1975 a secret Catholic Church inquiry was held in the Diocese of Kilmore about child sex abuse allegations made against Smyth. One of those conducting the canonical inquiry was the then Fr John Brady, who later became Cardinal Brady.
Mr Aiken told the inquiry that notwithstanding the evidence of abuse given to the 1975 inquiry, during which two boys were sworn to secrecy, the only sanction imposed against Smyth by the late bishop of Kilmore Francis McKiernan was that he be denied permission to hold confessions.
The inquiry also heard how a priest in 1973 was told by a woman her daughter was raped by Smyth in a Dublin hotel. He brought this information to Bishop McKiernan who said Smyth had received psychiatric treatment and such behaviour would not happen again.