Bishop Backtracks


August 1, 2008

LaRocque apologizes for blaming priest over mishandled sex abuse complaint

A contrite Eugene LaRocque backtracked on testimony he gave Thursday accusing his own delegate of not handling David Silmser's abuse allegations properly.

The 81-year-old former bishop told the Cornwall Public Inquiry Friday morning he “wasn't feeling that well” when he blamed Msgr. Donald McDougald for not following the Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese's draft protocol on handling sexual abuse complaints.

Former bishop Eugene LaRocque testifies Friday morning at the Cornwall Public Inquiry.

McDougald was acting as the diocese's delegate on abuse matters when Silmser came forward in late 1992 alleging he had been sexually abused as an altar boy by Rev. Charles MacDonald.

On Thursday, the inquiry learned the committee McDougald helmed did not keep notes of their meetings with either MacDonald or Silmser.

Nor did they tell Silmser why they declined to inform the Children's Aid Society of his allegations. Both actions violated draft guidelines diocesan officials had drawn up in the spring of 1992.

LaRocque had been testifying for about five hours Thursday when he said he would have had "to be God" to have known everything that was happening in the diocese, including whether McDougald was following the guidelines.

Before his fourth day of testimony began, he apologized to McDougald and accepted responsibility for the lack of oversight.

“In no way do I want to blame my former vicar general, Msgr. McDougald, for any of this,” LaRocque said. “I should have realized it was the first time we were using this protocol. I should have monitored it much more closely.”

MacDonald had abuse charges stayed against him in 2002 after a judge ruled they had taken too long to come to trial. He has always maintained his innocence.

McDougald has not yet testified at the inquiry, which resumes Aug. 25 at 9:30 a.m.

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