Sylvestre Victims Tired of Waiting

By Erica Bajer
The Daily News

October 6, 2008

Victims of pedophile priest Father Charles Sylvestre marked the anniversary of his sentencing today with an update about their journey through the legal process.

“We are here today to let the public know that we continue to struggle,” said Lou Ann Soontiens, at a news conference held in her Chatham home.

“One thing we all really struggle with is understanding why the process of compensation from the Diocese (of London) is taking so long.”

Sylvestre was sentenced on Oct. 6, 2006, to three years in prison for indecently assaulting 47 young girls while serving as a priest in parishes around southwestern Ontario, including Chatham, Pain Court, Sarnia, Windsor and London.

He died three months later.

Joanne Sullivan, who Sylvestre abused when she attended George P. Vanier School in Chatham in the early 1970s, said there have been too many delays on the part of the Diocese of London in dealing with the victims.

While she noted the main lawyer for the diocese was appointed a judge in the Superior Court of Justice, she said it doesn’t excuse the lengthy setbacks.

She just wants to put the entire matter behind her.

“It’s like a cloud hanging over us,” she said.

Karen Schram, a victim who wasn’t named in the court case, said the delays are re-victimizing survivors.

“It’s almost like they are trying to make us reach our breaking point and just give up,” she said.

Schram said constantly being made to re-tell the story of her abuse has added to her trauma.

Mark Adkinson, spokesman for the diocese, said the appointment of Peter Lauwers to the bench scuttled many dates set for the summer and fall.

However, he said a new schedule is now in place and the diocese is working hard to come to agreements with the survivors.

So far, the diocese has settled with more than 30 of Sylvestre’s victims, he said.

“There’s a fair number to go,” he said, noting he doesn’t know the exact number of outstanding cases.

Soontiens said the number of women who have come forward about abuse at the hands of Sylvestre is 78.

Resolving the cases is “a huge priority” for the diocese, Adkinson said.

“We’re doing everything that we can to accommodate their needs and make fair, but also reasonable, settlements with the victims,” he said.

Soontiens said Bishop Ronald Fabbro promised the victims in a homily he gave more than two years ago at St. Ursula’s Church — where many of the girls were victimized — that the diocese would work towards a fast and compassionate resolution.

“We feel that the bishop’s promise has been broken,” she said.


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