Cornwall Diocese Expected to Try to Derail Abuse Inquiry

By Bob Rupert
The Ottawa Citizen
February 23, 2006

Cornwall's Roman Catholic diocese is expected to move today to stop an inquiry from looking into allegations that it failed to adequately respond to accusations of child sexual abuse.

Sources close to the inquiry said the church and at least two other parties with standing will argue the inquiry has no legal right to delve into the allegations and that the names of individuals named by the 48 alleged victims who have asked to testify should not be made public.

It is expected that the diocese will argue in a motion to inquiry commissioner Normand Glaude that the church is not a public institution and the inquiry's mandate, stated in the Ontario legislature, restricts it to an examination of public institutions.

If the motion is upheld, parties such as The Victims Group and Citizens for Community Renewal say the inquiry would become largely meaningless. Of the 48 allegations contained in sworn affidavits filed by the Victims Group, at least three-quarters involve priests engaged in parish work or education.

At the inquiry yesterday, University of Western Ontario professor Peter Jaffe, an expert in the institutional and community response to child sexual abuse, said transparency and openness are essential for public institutions to retain credibility. Mr. Jaffe urged the inquiry to "clear the air" over a community that has long lived "under a cloud of suspicion," that the Catholic church has a credibility problem and is losing members because it failed to be open and admit shortcomings.

Interpretation of the inquiry's mandate -- "to inquire into and report on the events surrounding allegations of abuse of young people in Cornwall by examining the response of the justice system and other public institutions to the allegations" -- is expected to be crucial in deciding whether the mandate challenge is valid. In opening the inquiry last week, Judge Glaude defined the church as "a public institution."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.