In Newfoundland, Hope Is on the Rise
By Raymond de Souza
April 29, 2016
There it was, on the front page of the St. John’s Telegram, a detailed discussion of the sacramental seal of the confessional, and rather fairly done too.
For what reason? It was not for lack of news. My first ever visit to Newfoundland coincided with a number of major stories. There was the inaugural budget of the new Liberal government, which raised taxes on everything that moved, cut services and still booked a whopping $1.8 billion deficit (more than 20 per cent of total government spending). The Liberals will take the heat, but it was the Progressive Conservatives in power from 2003-2015 who deserve the blame, having squandered the oil boom. Then there was the resignation of the CEO of Nalcor, along with the entire board of directors. Nalcor is the Newfoundland crown corporation established in 2007 to manage the province’s energy industry. And for good measure, St. John’s was hit with the worst April storm in its history — 49 cm of snow and howling winds that rendered the city impassable. If a visitor needed reminding that Newfoundland really is in the middle of the north Atlantic, closer to Iceland than to Vancouver Island, the “spring” storm was sufficient.
So with all that going on, why were Catholic matters on the front page? It was coverage of the Mount Cashel trial. Yes, more than 25 years after the revelations of the horrific abuse at the Irish Christian Brothers orphanage, it is in the courts again. The Christian Brothers in Canada have long since been liquidated, the government of Newfoundland has paid compensation to the victims, the Mount Cashel building itself has been torn down and a supermarket built on the site — but there is a new trial. A civil trial, a test case brought on behalf of victims, charging that the Archdiocese of St. John’s itself should be held “vicariously liable” for the abuse at the orphanage, even though it was not an archdiocesan entity, either according to civil law or canon law. The trial will resume hearing testimony in June.