CHICAGO (CBS) — The victim at the center of the first lawsuit involving the Rev. John Smyth spoke out this week.
Clarence E. George Jr. claimed Smyth, the revered priest in charge of Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, preyed on him for years.
He first reached out exclusively to CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards.
“After the second time that it happened, I did say something to a staff member,” George said.
Once identified only as “Matt,” George plans to step out of the shadows to detail decades of abuse he claims at Smyth’s hands.
Smyth was once hailed as a miracle worker who turned orphans into success stories. But a new lawsuit claims he hid a much darker side – and the Chicago Archdiocese did nothing.
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“The thing that is so striking about the patterns and practices employed by Smyth is that these kids were already so vulnerable,” said attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents George. “And then they are placed in whose hands? A serial predator.”
When Edwards most recently spoke to George, he found ways to cope with pain.
George: “To call it a negotiation; a situation that I was in. If I do this, then…”
Edwards: “You never call it rape or sexual assault – why?”
George: “That’s interesting because I’ve never thought about that. But I think that just as a man, maybe trying to protect my pride – it kind of helps me protect, maybe, a certain image.”
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The lawsuit said victim George was happy at first to be placed at Maryville, where he was involved in golf, basketball, and field trips. The lawsuit also noted that Smyth made himself available to talk to Maryville residents, and George came to revere and trust Smyth “as a priest and authority figure at Maryville and a male role model.”
But about seven months into George’s time at Maryville, Smyth began sexually abusing George, the lawsuit alleged.
According to the lawsuit, Smyth abused George as he waited for medical treatment – and rewarded him with “phone privileges” or visits home after each instance.
The lawsuit also demands tough answers from the Archdiocese.
“What they knew and when they knew it and who knew it and what they did or didn’t do about it,” Anderson said. “It’s time for truth. It’s time for the excavation of this history. It’s time for these kids who are now adults to be believed.”
Smyth was a captivating figure. He was a star on the University of Notre Dame’s basketball team and selected by St. Louis in the 1957 NBA draft. He chose the priesthood instead. He was assigned to Maryville after ordination in 1962 and became its executive director in 1970 — a position he held until it was shuttered in 2004.
Smyth died in April after being removed from public ministry by the church. At his funeral there was a standing ovation.
Edwards noted to Anderson that some of Smyth’s supporters would say the lawsuit targets a dead man that did nothing but good work. Not so, Anderson says.
“When he was the alive, the harm and the damage and the destruction that he caused is alive and evergreen in every single one of those kids,” Anderson said.
A news conference about George’s lawsuit is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday.
The Archdiocese said it does not comment on pending lawsuits.