Former Priest Wants Pub Ban on Project Truth Testimony

Ottawa Sun [Canada]
November 16, 2006

Cornwall — Lawyers for a priest are asking the judge overseeing a public inquiry to ban publication of any details and statements regarding criminal allegations against their client.

A lawyer representing Rev. Charles MacDonald filed a motion Wednesday suggesting that hearing unfounded allegations against the priest will make him factually guilty in the eyes of the public.

John MacDonald, a man who claims the priest sexually assaulted him in the 1960s and 1970s, is expected to testify at the inquiry investigating the institutional response to allegations of decades of child sexual abuse in the Cornwall area.

"When the complainant takes the stand ... he will, under oath, make public allegations alleging serious criminal allegations against the applicant," Giuseppe Cipriano writes in the motion application. "Such evidence will be on a live webcast and then available to the public through transcripts available on the commission website."

Cipriano is arguing Charles MacDonald will be denied "any corresponding ability" to respond to the allegations. James Foord, another lawyer representing the priest, said his client is innocent and has never been found guilty of any crime.

"How could specific allegations be relevant to this inquiry?" Foord asked.

There was support for the motion from other parties, including the Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese.

David Sherriff-Scott argued a publication ban would not impair the inquiry's ability to fulfil its mandate to examine the response of public institutions to allegations of child abuse over the past several decades in the Cornwall area.

MacDonald, in an affidavit filed with the inquiry, says he feels "demonized" by the allegations he sexually abused young boys in the 1960s and 1970s.

"I feel that I have been demonized and the harm suffered is irreparable," MacDonald wrote. "(It) gets worse with each passing day."

MacDonald, 73, was charged in 1994 after a number of complainants told police the priest had sexually assaulted them when they were young boys.

After six years of court dates, adjournments and preliminary hearings, the charges against MacDonald were stayed when a judge determined it had taken too long to bring the matter to trial.

"I was ordered to leave the parish and cease all activities as a priest," he wrote. "My career was essentially over."

"I have made over 50 court appearances and have been branded through massive publicity as a pedophile and a member of a 'clan of pedophiles,"'

In another motion before the inquiry, lawyers argued it will not be necessary to know the name of a sexual abuse victim in order to properly analyze institutional response to abuse complaints.

On Nov. 7, lawyers for the Canadian Broadcasting Company argued banning the names of victims and alleged victims from being published and broadcast in the media is tantamount to placing a gag order on individuals who otherwise may want to tell their stories.

"(It is) a violation of that victim's freedom of expression," said CBC lawyer Tony Wong. Some parties at the inquiry are seeking the protection of the identity of a number of victims, including those who have never come forward with the intent of taking part in the inquiry.

On Wednesday, a handful of parties weighed in on the issue, most suggesting there is no benefit to the inquiry to begin publicizing the names of victims who otherwise wish to remain anonymous.

"I don't understand why any information you need hinges on identity," said Dallas Lee, a lawyer for The Victims Group. "We must not permit the revictimization of people by publishing names."

Commissioner Normand Glaude is expected to rule on the issue in the near future.


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