Former principal, teacher at Winnipeg’s St. Paul’s among Jesuit priests accused of sexually abusing minors

CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) [Toronto, Canada]

March 14, 2023

By Darren Bernhardt

‘It is with deep sorrow that I share these names,’ says St. Paul’s president Kevin Booth

WARNING: This article contains discussion of the sexual abuse of minors.

Two former teachers at St. Paul’s High School in Winnipeg, one of whom also served as principal, are on a list of accused sexual abusers in the Jesuits of Canada.

“I am incredibly saddened,” St. Paul’s president Kevin Booth said in a statement posted Monday on the school’s website, after it was revealed two former St. Paul’s educators — Father John Pungente and Father George Topp — were on the list of 27 priests and brothers released Monday by the Jesuits, a religious order of the Catholic Church.

The people on the list were “credibly accused” of sexually abusing minors over the past six decades, Jesuits of Canada said.

“It is with deep sorrow that I share these names and I painfully recognize the life-long impact that the trauma of abuse has on the victims,” Booth said in the St. Paul’s statement.

Topp was a teacher at St. Paul’s from 1968 until 1974. He has since died.

Pungente was a teacher at St. Paul’s from 1964 until 1967, and again from 1971 until 1976. He served as principal from 1976 until 1983.

CBC made multiple attempts to contact Pungente on Tuesday, but did not receive any replies.

The list released Monday includes people accused of abuse dating back to 1950. Along with each priest’s name, it documents each of the places they were assigned to work. 

CBC News has not independently verified the allegations against the priests, many of whom have died.

The religious order announced in December 2019 that it would release the names, after conducting a comprehensive audit of 60 years worth of files with the help of King International Advisory Group, a third-party risk assessment organization.

The Jesuits originally planned to release the list by January 2021, but attributed the delay to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Jesuits hope that this act of accountability and reconciliation will help victims and their families in the healing process and continue to seek forgiveness from all those who have been hurt by this profound betrayal of pastoral care,” Booth’s statement said.

“The Jesuits believe that it is the right thing to do to promote institutional transparency and accountability, an important step to help correct the causes of the crisis.”

Booth also asked for prayers “for the victims who have been gravely harmed by those who betrayed the trust placed in them.”

“While we cannot change the past, I want to assure our students, parents, alumni and community that we are and have been dedicated to doing everything we can to prevent abuse.”

Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you’re in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911. 


Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent.

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