Area Men Say They Were Abused by Priest

By Joe Belanger
London Free Press
October 27, 2008

Six men filed lawsuits today each seeking $2 million against the Roman Catholic Diocese of London alleging they were abused as boys more than 50 years ago by a priest at small parishes across the Chatham and Windsor area.

The lawsuits were unveiled at a press conference in Chatham held by the London law firm Ledroit Beckett, which specializes in abuse cases, especially involving priests.

The five men, who join a lawsuit launched earlier this year by Wayne Thibert, were boys between the ages of nine and 12 serving as alter boys at various parishes where Father Laurent (Lawrence) C. Paquette served between 1955 and his death in 1986.

They allege Paquette sexually abused them.

Their allegations have yet to be proven in court.

"These claims are so old, we really need the public's help in putting them together," said lawyer Rob Talach.

"We believe there may be other victims who haven't come forward."

Talach explained it's not unusual for male victims of childhood sexual abuse not to report their abusers until decades later, partly because of the shame of being abused by another man, but also the pressure of living in small French Canadian communities, such as Grande Pointe, where the church played a major role in family and community life.

"At the end of the day, they wish to now simply disclose the truth, seek justice and achieve healing," said Talach.

"They should be commended and not criticized for finally speaking out. It takes considerable courage and strength to speak aloud about something so traumatic. Criticism of their decision only discourages other victims from speaking and ultimately favours the perpetrators whose crimes will go undetected and unpunished."

"It was to be a secret between him and me and he told me not to tell anybody," said the man, who kept the secret until he told his wife a few months ago.

"Initially, it was fondling, but then it led to other things."

Talach said at least one of alleged victims has come under pressure from family not come foreword.

"Be it a young person who is struggling with abuse, or another victim from decades ago who just needs to know that it is never to late to deal with the crimes of their childhood," said Talach.

A diocese spokesperson said Paquette served at St. Anne, Tecumseh (1943-1950); Our Lady of Fatima, Windsor (1950-1952); St. Ignatius, Bothwell (1952-1955); St. Philip, Grande Pointe (1955-1967); St. Gregory the Great, St. Clair Beach (1967-1970); St. Joseph, River Canard (1970-1975); St. Thomas Aquinas, Sarnia (1975-1980); and St. Clement, McGregor (1980-1986).

"The Diocese of London takes any allegation very seriously," said spokesperson Mark Adkinson.

"When we received an allegation against Fr. Lawrence Paquette for the first time in January 2008, we conducted an investigation, informed our parish communities and made an appeal for anyone with information to come forward."

Adkinson urged anyone who feels they1ve been a victim of abuse by a priest to contact Father John Sharp, Bishop Ronald Fabbro's delegate on sexual misconduct. Talach urged victims to contact an independent "third party" for advice.

"We immediately respond to requests of funding for counseling and we will continue to do all that we can to ensure children and other vulnerable persons are safe," said Adkinson.

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