|London Diocese Faces Lawsuits
London Diocese Facing Lawsuitsmen Claim Abuse at the Hands of Late Priest
By Erica Bajer
Chatham Daily News
October 28, 2008
Gerald Joseph Lozon hadn't heard from his brother Reginald in 18 years.
When Reginald, 62, finally called him it was to talk about the sexual molestation he suffered at the hands of a priest.
Reginald told Gerald, 60, about the alleged abuse -- details that hit close to home.
Gerald said Father Lawrence C. Paquette also abused him when he served as an altar boy 50 years ago at St. Philippe's Roman Catholic Church in Grande Pointe.
The two men, along with four other men, have each filed $2-million lawsuits against the Diocese of London in connection with alleged sexual misconduct by Paquette, who died in 1986. The allegations, which have not been proven in court, range from fondling to sex acts. The alleged incidents took place between the mid-1950s and early 1970s. Five of the six men claim the abuse happened while Paquette served in Grande Pointe between 1955 and 1967.
Gerald never knew his brother had also been molested. He thought he was the only one.
"That was the first time he even talked about it," Gerald recalled.
After discussing their memories, the brothers decided to come forward.
They also re-established their bond.
Gerald said the toll the abuse has taken on his brother is significant, leading to decades of substance abuse and emotional problems.
He said Reginald, who lives on a boat in British Columbia, has led a life dominated by his efforts to escape the past.
Gerald hopes speaking out about the molestation will free them both from the shame and guilt and allow them to start the healing process.
"I hope this will help me get back to having more confidence in myself," Gerald said.
He said it took nearly 50 years for him to come forward because of the stigma associated with the assaults.
"I was ashamed, I was scared and I was afraid of what people would say," he said.
"I'm here to finally have my say so I can heal." Gerald broke down at a news conference announcing the filing of the lawsuits yesterday.
"I wish Father Paquette was here today so I could tell him what his abuse did to me," Gerald said in a voice thick with emotion. "He died thinking his secret was safe."
Gerald said he hopes sharing his story gives other victims the courage to come forward.
Wayne Thibert, 52, who filed the first lawsuit related to abuse by Paquette in January, said he also hopes going public will empower others to step out of the shadows of sexual abuse.
He disclosed the incidents after his father's death, when he overheard his mother and aunt talking about what a great priest Paquette was.
"It triggered that memory," he said, adding he couldn't stand the thought of his abuser being remembered in such a positive light.
Thibert said he was abused in the late 1960s and early 1970s when he was between the ages of 10 and 16 and attending St. Gregory the Great in St. Clair Beach. Thibert said he lived with the abuse in silence for so long, he never thought he'd speak about it.
"I was going to my grave with that secret," he said.
He's glad he came forward.
Thibert said through counselling, he's beginning to discover the impacts of the abuse. However, he said he's just scratching the surface.
"I think it's going to be a long road," he said. "I'm never going to feel comfortable with it, but I may be able to live with it."
Lawyer Rob Talach, of Ledroit Beckett, the London firm handling the lawsuits, said not much is known about Paquette or his career.
"These victims therefore seek the assistance of the public in their pursuit of the truth," he said. "There are many questions which remain unanswered."
Anyone with information is asked to call the law firm at 1-866-674-4994 or e-mail Talach at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Adkinson, director of communications for the diocese, said when the first lawsuit was filed in January, the diocese conducted an investigation, notified parish communities and appealed to the public for information.
"That was the first time we had received any allegations of sexual misconduct by Father Lawrence Paquette," he said.
He added that no reference to sexual misconduct was found in any diocesan records.
Insp. George Flikweert, head of the Chatham-Kent Police Service's major crime unit, said "no one has ever come forward to lodge a complaint" against Paquette.
Adkinson said Paquette served at the following parishes: St. Anne, Tecumseh (1943-1950); Our Lady of Fatima, Windsor (1950-1952); St. Ignatius, Bothwell (1952-1955); St. Philippe, Grande Pointe (1955-1967); St. Gregory the Great, St. Clair Beach (1967-1970); St. Joseph, River Canard (1970-1975); St. Thomas Aquinas, Sarnia (1975-1980); and St. Clement, McGregor (1980-1986).
He said anyone with knowledge of improper conduct involving Paquette or any diocesan representative, is asked to call Father John Sharp, the bishop's delegate regarding sexual misconduct, at 519-433-0658 ext. 225.
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