Dozens of victims get payments from church after sexual abuse by some N.B. priests

CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) [Toronto, Canada]

February 29, 2024

By Shane Magee

Archdiocese of Moncton says it has paid $5.4 million to victims

The Archdiocese of Moncton recently paid about $5.4 million to dozens of victims who sued the Catholic Church alleging sexual abuse by some priests.

The payments bring an end to dozens of lawsuits that have been filed over more than a decade involving multiple priests in southeast New Brunswick.

While some of the victims previously received partial payments after settling the cases, the church argued its finances — including a dispute with its insurer — meant it couldn’t pay the full amount until recently.

Archbishop of Moncton Guy Desrochers announced the payments in a Jan. 30 letter to parishioners. He said in an interview this week that the payments complete the compensation to 78 victims.

Desrochers said the archdiocese has spent close to $24 million over the last 13 years. 

The letter says Desrochers and his predecessor, Valéry Vienneau, began a fundraising push last year that led to “numerous” donations from people outside the diocese.

“Without hiding anything from these possible donors, I explained the dramatic financial situation that would lead us to contemplate insolvency,” Desrochers said in the letter. 

“Thanks to their contributions, we were able to meet our financial and legal requirements, with a payment deadline of December 29, 2023.”

Desrochers told CBC News that donors were in Canada and the United States.

He said of the $5.4 million, $2.2 million was from the Archdiocese of Moncton Foundation.

Three lawyers who represented victims confirmed to Radio-Canada and CBC that their clients have now been paid.

“There’s some closure,” lawyer Brian Murphy said in an interview. 

“There’s still disgust that it took so long to make it happen. And I think that that’s a concern for all of the victims for sure. That’s sort of an ongoing victimization, I guess, but it’s over. I mean that this is the good news. The lawsuits are over.”

The victims in the lawsuits didn’t take part in an out-of-court conciliation process the archdiocese organized that was led by retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Michel Bastarache. That process led to payments totalling $10.6 million to 109 victims, CBC previously reported.

Robert Talach, an Ontario-based lawyer representing 26 victims recently paid, said they can now use the funds to improve their lives.

But Talach said the wait for the settlement payments means its value has decreased as the cost of living has increased.  Money that once could have bought a home, for instance, could no longer cover that cost, he said. 

Talach said some victims agreed to settle for lesser amounts based on the expectation they’d quickly receive the funds. 

“I think it’s shameful, the fact that the local Catholic community raised millions and millions of dollars for an ugly old building in downtown Moncton,” Talach said, referring to the Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral. 

“At the same time, victims of sexual abuse by priests were scraping by, waiting for meager partial payments from the diocese to materialize.”

Murphy was also critical of the archdiocese, which has sold properties and sued its insurer to get it to cover the cost of the settlements

“These are all, you know, internal problems of the church, and I understand their point of view,” Murphy said. 

“However, I represent the victims who waited and waited and waited, making all of this much worse for them. And it’s a really sad story, really, even though it is all over.”

Desrochers defended his predecessor’s actions to Radio-Canada, saying jobs were cut, properties sold and that parishes have made sacrifices.

Desrochers said the completion of the payments means the church can close a dark chapter.

“That said, this is not to say that victims no longer have a place,” Desrochers said. “We continue to pray for them. We have compassion for all of this.

“But we are happy to be able to shift our focus from that. It’s been 13 years. We must turn the page and now we are able to do it.”


Shane Magee

Reporter – Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC. With files from Pascal Raiche-Nogue