Father Smyth1

Fr. Brendan Smyth, c. 1965

Brendan Smyth (1927–1997) was a notorious child molester who used his position as a Catholic priest to obtain access to his victims. During a period of over 40 years, Smyth sexually abused and indecently assaulted twenty[1] children in parishes in Belfast, Dublin and the United States.

Early life and ordination

Originally from Northern Ireland, Smyth was member of the Norbertine Catholic religious order. The Norbertines, also known as the Premonstratensians, which Smyth had joined in 1945, were aware of Smyth's crimes as early as the late 1940s, yet they failed to report him to either the Gardaí or the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Instead he was moved from parish to parish and between dioceses whenever allegations were made against him. In some cases, the order did not inform the diocesan bishop that Smyth had a history of sexual abuse and should be kept away from children.

1994 arrest

His arrest in 1994 led to the collapse of a Fianna Fáil/Labour coalition government when the incompetent handling of an extradition request from the RUC by the Irish Attorney-General's office led to a further delay of some months in Smyth facing trial. An award-winning UTV Counterpoint programme on the scandal by journalist Chris Moore, followed up by a book, accused the head of the Norbertines and the Archbishop of Armagh of mishandling the case, and the Norbertines of negligence and a failure to tell others of his longstanding child molestation, enabling Smyth to sexually abuse large numbers of children for 40 years.

1997 prison death

When Smyth died in prison of a heart attack in 1997 at the age of 70, four years and one month into a seven year prison sentence, the Norbertines held his funeral early in the morning, and covered his grave with concrete to deter vandalism. He was buried in Kilnacrott Abbey which was put up for sale with 44 acres of land, including his grave.[2]

On October 27, 2005, one of Smyth's victims succeeded in having the title 'Reverend' removed from his gravestone[3].

Later investigations

Reviewers of the Smyth case differ as to whether it was a deliberate plot to conceal his behaviour, incompetence by his superiors at Kilnacrott Abbey or some combination of various factors. Cardinal Daly, both as Bishop of Down and Connor, a diocese where some of the abuse took place, and later as Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh, is recorded as having been privately scathing at the Norbertine "incompetence".[4]

See also

Further reading

  • Moore, Chris (1995). Betrayal of Trust: The Father Brendan Smyth Affair and the Catholic Church. Dublin: Marino. ISBN 1-86023-027-X. 


  1. Irish News. "Fr Brendan Smyth". Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  2. Abbey for sale, with pervert priest's grave included, Sunday Independent, 6 April 2008, retrieved 4 July 2009
  3. Abuse priest has 'Rev' title removed from grave - bloglink only - no independent supporting reference
  4. [1]
no:Brendan Smyth

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