Number of child sex allegations against Norbertines ‘unknown’

Complaints by 281 against Fr Brendan Smyth in solicitors’ files, watchdog report says

When it came to the Norbertine congregation, of which Fr Brendan Smyth was a member, the Catholic Church's National Board for Safeguarding Children said it was "disappointed to report that overall, there has not been any realisation of the importance of child safeguarding" among members.

The board reviewed the Norbertines’ child-protection practices in May 2016 to find that none of the church’s seven required standards were fully met.

Currently there are nine Norbertines in Ireland, eight priests and one brother, with an average age of 77.

The congregation was “notorious for its mismanagement of the now deceased member, Brendan Smyth (8 June 1927 - 22 August 1997) . . . who abused a large number of children from the 1960s (and possibly even earlier) until his arrest and incarceration in 1990s”.


Active complaints

The congregation is “still receiving complaints” relating to Smyth, while 281 complainants were named in the files kept at the solicitors’ office in Dublin.

Overall the number of sex abuse allegations against four Norbertine priests and brothers, two living, one retired, one out of ministry, was “not known”. Two have been convicted in the courts.

There was “no information on the files to evidence any consistent and direct notification by the Norbertines of child protection allegations to An Garda Síochána”.

The board felt “unable to clearly state that they have had access to and examined all allegations in relation to sexual abuse against Norbertine priests”.

On September 25th, 2016, the board was told that as of that date all public ministry by Norbertines on the island of Ireland would cease.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times