They came with a list of names: All are priests. All have ties to Ireland. All are accused of sexually abusing children in the United States.
Yesterday, a Waltham-based group that has been chronicling the US clergy sexual abuse scandal released the names of 60 to 70 accused priests it says were born in Ireland or are of Irish descent who came to the United States and were reoffenders.
The group, BishopAccountability.org, demanded that Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston and Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence immediately make public the names of any credibly accused Irish priests who have worked in their dioceses.
By revealing the names, the group said it hopes to highlight the issue of immigrant Irish priests who are known pedophiles and whose histories of alleged abuse have long been "outsourced" to the United States.
BishopAccountability.org has a database of 3,000 names of accused priests and said roughly a third are linked to Ireland, which is reeling from revelations of a decades-long coverup of abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese. Four Irish bishops resigned this month as news unfolded.
"Bishops [in Ireland], just like bishops here, have been moving accused priests around, even though they know they are dangerous," said Terence McKiernan of BishopAccountability.org. "Unfortunately the places where they put them include our own backyard. So the Irish crisis, basically, has become our crisis, too."
Standing before the Cathedral of the Holy Cross yesterday, members and supporters of the group said the Irish scandal is deeply linked to the US abuse crisis because priests trained in Irish seminaries are systematically sent to serve in America, including clergy with long histories of abuse.
They also called on Prime Minister Brian Cowen of Ireland to recognize his country's responsibility to inform the American public of all child-molesting clergy from Irish dioceses and religious orders who have immigrated to US dioceses.
In a statement yesterday, the Boston Archdiocese said it remains committed to doing "everything in our power to protect children from the threat of sexual abuse."
It said news from Ireland serves as a painful reminder to survivors.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to those in Ireland who have been harmed by the tragic reality of sexual abuse of children by clergy," the statement from the archdiocese said. "We know from our own experience the profound impact and suffering caused by the harm perpetrated on children and young people. Over the past decade, we have worked diligently to respond to this crisis and ensure it is never repeated."
The Providence Diocese did not respond to two calls seeking comment yesterday.
At yesterday's press conference, Helen L. McGonigle, a lawyer from Connecticut, held a picture of herself at age 6, her sharply cut bangs above a child's innocent eyes and smile. McGonigle said she was 6 when she was abused by a priest named Brendan Smyth, who left a trail of abuse in Britain and Ireland before he came to work in East Greenwich, R.I.
Smyth died in an Irish prison in 1997, shortly after pleading guilty to 74 counts of sexually abusing 20 Irish boys and girls between 1958-1993.
"We know it was problem in the Diocese of Providence having this Irish priest who was a known pedophile," said McGonigle, now 48.
"This is a classic example of an organization that doesn't give a hoot about protecting children," she said.
Jeffrey Thomas said yesterday that he also had been abused by Smyth.
Thomas filed suit in Providence Superior Court against the Diocese of Providence and others, alleging that he had been abused by Smyth at an East Greenwich, R.I., parish school.
"I am a survivor of clergy abuse," he said outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. "The bigger crime to me is that [Smyth's] superiors knew about his appetite and his sexual desires and still put him in populations with small children to reoffend."
Also named on the list are the Rev. Joseph Maguire, who served in Waltham and died in prison in 2005 while serving a 44-year sentence for abusing three boys.