Woman claims sexual abuse by former parish priest

Cape Breton Post [Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada]

February 3, 2024

By Steve Macinnis

A former parish priest, the Diocese (Catholic) of Antigonish and Bishop Wayne Kirk- patrick are all named in a civil suit that alleges incidents of sexual assault and a failure to investig- ate.

A Sydney woman claims that between Jan. 12-14, 2022, then Father Patrick J. O’neill sexually assaulted her on two occasions in his vehicle after enticing her with alcohol in exchange for sexual favours.

At the time, O’neill was parish priest at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Sydney River. He has since left the priesthood.

According to the statement of claim, the woman was dealing with alcohol addiction at the time and was attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings when an individual recommended that she might find additional support and comfort by becoming involved in religion.

She was referred to Our Lady of Fatima Church and introduced to O’neill.

The allegations contained in the statement of claim have not been proven in court. No defence has yet been filed on behalf of O’neill, the diocese or the bishop.

According to the claim, O’neill and the woman began communicating on social media on Jan. 2, 2022, and by Jan. 10, the conversations included sexual overtones.

The woman alleges that on Jan. 12, 2022, O’neill picked her up to take her to his home but on the way he enticed her with alcohol for sexual favours. They two, according to the claim, engaged in sexual intercourse.

On Jan. 14, the pair again hooked up and had sex in O’neill’s vehicle while she was intoxicated.

It was after this encounter that the woman claims O’neill no longer wanted to continue having sex fearing he would get caught. The woman claims that left her confused, distraught and that she felt ashamed and used.

She claims that she felt betrayed by her newfound faith which plunged her into an extreme relapse that endured for several months.

The woman told the individual who recommended religion to her. The individual is then alleged to have passed the information on to the bishop who advised that he would intervene.

On at least two occasions, the bishop told the individual that he was dealing with the issue but O’neill continued in his regular duties.

The suit alleges that Kirkpatrick failed to investigate claims of sexual abuse and failed to report such abuse to his superiors and police.

The woman now claims that the incidents of abuse have left her with an inability to develop nor- mal human relations, had thoughts of suicide, is depressed, exhibiting signs of self-destructive behaviour, along with anxiety.

The suit does not include a specific dollar amount in compensation being sought.