Saskatoon diocese to release report of abusive priests and staff in Catholic church

CTV Television Network [Toronto, Canada]

March 16, 2021

By Carla Shynkaruk

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon is among the first nationwide to announce it will release a report listing abusive priests and staff going back decades.

A local committee is expected to release the list in late spring. This means Saskatoon would be the second jurisdiction in the country to release such a list, following Vancouver.

The Saskatoon list is expected to name those priests who were involved in public court cases and those who were mentioned in the internal records of churches.

Brenda FitzGerald is a member of the historical review committee for the diocese.

She and 10 laypeople from all walks of life have been going over cases of abuse for over two years.

She’s from Newfoundland and says she lived a block away from the infamous orphanage at the heart of one of the first major cases of abuse in the Catholic Church at Mount Cashel.

FitzGerald calls it “ground zero of sexual abuse in North America and the world.”

She says she knew some of the boys involved, adding that her entire family and many who lived nearby were affected by what happened there.

This is one of the reasons she wanted to be a part of this process – so she could help address the negative view that some have of the Catholic church and focus on being open and transparent.

“For me it was hard, but to see that they’re doing something about this because the cover up is so bad and they’re telling truths and being transparent,” FitzGerald told CTV News.

The hope is that the report helps the church learn from past mistakes so they are not repeated, according to the committee chair.

“For victims, this is a very important step towards healing, and we recognize that,” FitzGerald said.

Some names may not be included for privacy or legal reasons.

This is an innovative initiative for Saskatoon, according to FitzGerald, who anticipates other jurisdictions looking to them for guidance on how to embark on a similar process.

She says getting victims the support they need is also a key component of this list being released and she encourages anyone who has been the victim of abuse to come forward.

Rob Talach is a lawyer and victims advocate based in London, Ont. He has been involved with just over 400 abuse lawsuits against Catholic Church since 2003. Talach says while there needs to be fundamental changes to the Catholic Church in order to eliminate the potential for abuse by clergy, the list is a step in the right direction.

“Any bit of light into this dark chapter of the church’s history is very encouraging and important to the victims. I think the list helps others to come forward and they’ll be believed,” he said.

The Vancouver list, which was released in 2019, was an “utter disappointment,” Talach says.

“The list was very shrunken down. Lots of caveats as to why they can’t do X, Y or Z, because privacy or legal reasons. They set the standards on what they will disclose.”

Talach adds the problem is that it is rare to have written proof of something bad that happened.

He’s hopeful more of those bad stories will come out and result in positive outcomes of this report.

“What the public should do is, all those elderly parents now and all those folks who reported to the church, it’s time for them to step up and augment this list and say, well I told somebody, and it doesn’t seem to be written down.”

The Saskatoon list will be sent to the bishops first and then forwarded to members of parishioners in the Catholic church community.

After that it will be posted publicly.