The chorus of voices calling for the resignation of Cardinal Sean Brady now includes an American woman who was sexually abused as a child by the serial abuser Father Brendan Smyth. However, the woman is also calling for a criminal investigation into the actions of the Cardinal.
American lawyer Helen McGonigle, 50, now campaigns for survivors of clerical sexual abuse and she told the Irish Independent this week that the Cardinal should resign for not alerting other families to Smyth’s catalogued history of sex abuse. McGonigle was molested by Smyth on multiple occasions in the late 1960's in Rhode Island, New York. Smyth's behavior was known to Church authorities; however, they consistently failed to act.
Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster this week, McGonigle said she was 'outraged' by Cardinal Brady's response to allegations made against him in a BBC documentary broadcast this week, saying that Cardinal Sean Brady's 'duty as a human' was to protect children and his failure to act decisively after hearing a complaint from the then 14 year old Brendan Boland, who named other five other children who were being abused, was 'unforgivable.'
McGonigal told the Independent she was just six-years-old and preparing for the sacrament of penance when she was first abused by Smyth, who led her from her classmates into the sacristy of the church where he molested her. Her sister, Kathleen, was also abused by the Belfast-born priest in their hometown of East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Unable to cope with the trauma of her stolen childhood, Kathleen took her own life as an adult.
Church authorities knew that Smyth had already sexually molested children when he was sent to the McGonigles' parish in the summer of 1965. Each time Smyth made efforts to befriend local families who shared his Irish ancestry. Each time his victims were unaware of his predatory plans.
McGonigle, who is now an attorney in Connecticut, said: 'From 1967 until about 1970 he molested me. He was caught in my parish molesting children as early as 1968. It was in the spring of 1967, when myself and a neighbor were going through training to get the sacrament of penance, that he would pick us out one by one and bring us to the sacristy of the church to abuse us.'
Although when the now Cardinal Brady learned of Smyth's activities in 1975 it was already too late to save the children of East Greenwich, many others could have been shielded McGonigle said.
'Cardinal Brady has blood on his hands. He came to this with unclean hands. So many lives and children could have been spared. We know the reports of the number of Brendan Smyth's victims who committed suicide or attempted suicide.'
McGonigle added that she believed Cardinal Brady should resign and he should be charged with obstruction of justice.
'He sat on this knowledge for 35 years, from 1975 through to 2010, and Brendan Smith continued to abuse children. It is only because of the lawsuit one of his victims has brought that he has had to show his hand. How this is unfolding, we're seeing what the real church is. The real church has orchestrated this for decades. People need to take their church back.'