According to McGonigle’s childhood neighbor who she located after 36 years, in 1968 her mother caught “Smyth sodomizing a little boy behind the stone wall and she shouted, ‘What are you doing to that little boy.’
“Smyth charged at her and yelled, ‘Get back in the house this is church business,’” McGonigle said.
In 1969 McGonigle’s mother was found hysterical on the front lawn of their family home half naked, screaming, "The Pope owes me!" Her brother was called home from school to address the situation (her dad was out of state on business).
“My brother, now deceased, based upon his personal observations and being 15 or 16 believed my mom was raped and it was by Smyth,” said McGonigle.
By June 1970 her mother was having a meltdown. She spent one month in June of 1970 at Butler Hospital in Rhode Island.
“Gerry witnessed the deterioration of my mother and that was very difficult for him. So much responsibility was on his shoulders as an early age to protect our family while my dad was traveling,” she said.
“Smyth knew when my dad was away because the car was gone from the driveway and my mom did not drive. When this all surfaced for our family in 2005, my brother had a great deal of difficulty coping with it.”
Ironically, said McGonigle, her grandmother seemed to have a sense of what went on in the clergy. In letters, McGonigle later discovered, hand written by her grandmother to her Uncle Gerry, she warned him of “those seminarians and priests that will try to get into your bed.”
Although she doesn’t have any proof, McGonigle said she is “highly suspicious” that it was her grandmother and her mother that reported Smyth as a sexual abuser in 1968.
“This I suspect through circumstances and do not have hard proof,” she said.
The abuse stopped when the family moved from Rhode Island in 1973 but the scars were left for life.
McGONIGLE got on with her life. She put her abuse behind her and did her best to lead a normal life.
It wasn’t until her sister’s death five years ago that she began to delve into their pasts. She began to question why her sister suffered from depression in the first place.
After a little investigating she too discovered and remembered that Kathleen was a victim of Smyth’s lurid acts.
After burying her sister McGonigle took time to deal with her own issues. In November the Irish government’s Murphy Report was released, resulting in a press conference in Boston in December.
“At the last moment I decided to blow up my photo from first grade and the one of Smyth from 1994. Both of those photos resonate with people and they wound up on the front page of the Metro section of the Boston Globe,” said McGonigle deciding it was time to go public with her story and let other victims know they weren’t alone.
“I was inspired by a very kind man name Paul Kellen in the Boston area who with my permission has been carrying my poster around to rallies all over the place. Paul even took my picture to see the Pope during his last visit to New York and Washington, D.C., and Paul is often outside the Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston with my picture.”
Not wanting to let Smyth ruin any more of her life, McGonigle reported the sexual abuse inflicted on her to the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island in 2006. They told her she wasn’t the first to report Smyth.
“I was informed that I was the sixth to come forward, yet newspaper accounts that I located indicated there were no problems whatsoever in our parish,” she said.
McGonigle attended a meeting where she said the Vicar General, Paul Theroux, of the Providence Diocesan, offered her $25,000 compensation, or she could “privately arbitrate with a cap of $50,000 (meaning there would be no public record and everything would once again be kept secret).”
McGonigle became infuriated with the financial offer.
McGonigle said the diocesan victim outreach coordinator, Michael Hansen, told her to “just send us all your bills."
“I refused their hush money,” said McGonigle.
The Diocese of Providence has paid for therapy and medical expenses McGonigle has incurred as a result of the abuse by Smyth.
McGonigle, who still has a case pending against the Diocese of Providence, realizes that it’s too late for Smyth to be brought to justice, but she longs for the Catholic Church to recognize the abuse he inflicted on the children of her parish while he served his time there.
“I would like bystanders and victims alike to come forward with information -- not just about Brendan Smyth -- in any case where they suspect child sexual abuse or child abuse is occurring,” she said.
“I also would like to see living pedophiles and those who have been complicit in their crimes prosecuted, and that includes clerics. It's mind boggling that just because a pedophile wears a roman collar he escapes criminal prosecution.