Priest faces fresh sex-abuse claims

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The Independent Online


Irish Catholic Church leaders exerted considerable authority over the Irish leadership of an order at the centre of a 30-year sex-abuse scandal, despite public claims that they had no influence over it, a television programme to be broadcast tonight claims.

Senior clergy last year publicly argued that they had been unable to intervene in the case of the paedophile priest Father Brendan Smyth, jailed for four years in 1994, because they lacked authority over the Norbertine Order of which he was a member. But the film, Keeping the Faith made by Ulster Television, suggests that bishops privately sought to impose control over the order's abbot, including barring him from public comment.

The programme also details new allegations from four victims that they were abused by Smyth within the Norbertine abbey at Kilnacrott, Co Cavan.

The failure to extradite Smyth to Northern Ireland last year led to the collapse of the Irish government. Smyth, now 64, was last month sentenced to a further three-year jail term for sex assaults against children. He is expected on release to face 30 more charges in the Republic.

The issue of whether Catholic bishops had de facto authority over the Rome-based Norbertines may be critical in determining whether the church should be made legally liable for compensating victims of Smyth and other clerical sex abusers.