Church's Report on Abuse Not Credible: Survivors
Groups Seek Role on Task Force. Having a Victim on the Committee an 'Interesting Idea,' Bishop Says

By Lynn Moore
The Gazette [Canada]
December 13, 2003

A task force reviewing the Catholic Church's 13-year-old report on sexual abuse within the church has lost all credibility because it doesn't include a single abuse survivor or victim activist, representatives of abuse survivors said yesterday.

"It's the same old, same old (story) from the Catholic Church and that's utter disregard for victims," said David Gagnon, an Ottawa resident and spokesperson for Canadian Healing Circle, an umbrella group whose members had sought a role on the task force.

The 11-member panel announced yesterday by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has two chairpersons, Archbishop V. James Weisgerber of Winnipeg and Auxiliary Bishop Eug?ne Tremblay of Quebec City.

The notion of having an abuse victim on the committee is "an interesting idea" and one he will put on the table when the group holds its first meeting next month, Tremblay said during a telephone interview.

The group's mandate is to review current guidelines concerning allegations and incidents of sexual abuse involving members of the Catholic clergy in Canada and decide what, if any, revisions are needed, Tremblay said.

"It's not a goal to find victims or decide today what to do with (yesterday's) victims who may be there. It's really to decide how, and through which means, bishops can provide protection to a (population or place) that may be vulnerable," Tremblay said.

Individual bishops may well decide that their regional or local committees should include victims, he added.

Shirley Armstrong, of the Edmonton-based group Breaking the Silence Society, was among the activists who met with representatives of the bishops' conference in June to discuss, among other items, their inclusion on the task force.

She has also written repeatedly to conference general-secretary Peter Schonenbach on the subject.

Yesterday, Armstrong said she felt "ill" on learning victims had been shut out.

"I'm really very upset about this. They didn't even have the decency to get in touch with us on the route they were taking (before it became public)," Armstrong said.

The 1992 document called From Pain to Hope spells out protocols for dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct against clergy.

Among the requirements is dioceses designate a person who is independent of the bishop to handle complaints and quickly report those complaints to authorities.

The new task force, whose final report is expected by the end of 2004, is composed of laity and clergy.

Among its members are:

Rev. Beno?t-Marc Boyer, a lawyer and specialist in canon law with the Montreal Archdiocese.

Gilles Clavel, a child-protection worker from Gatineau.

Rev. Yvon Pomerleau, provincial superior of the Dominicans of Montreal.

Rayleen De Luca, a University of Manitoba professor who is a specialist in pediatric psychology.

To read the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' report From Pain to Hope, go to the Web site:


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