Give Portion of Ticket Sales to Abuse Victims, Groups Urge

Montreal Gazette
October 30, 2010

Two groups are asking organizers of today's Brother Andre celebration to collect money for people who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of pedophile Catholic priests and lay brothers.

They say some of the entry fee (tickets cost $5) for today's event at the Olympic Stadium should go to indemnify victims and pay for psychological support. They are also calling for a collection during the event, with money going to victims.

The Association of Victims of Priests and a committee of victims of lay brothers at College Notre Dame sent letters asking Jean-Claude Turcotte, archbishop of Montreal, and Pierre Morissette, bishop of St. Jerome and president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, to support the idea.

"They should be honourable and show Christian charity," said France Bedard, founder of the Association of Victims of Priests. "This would be a good concrete gesture," she said, adding the groups have not received responses to their letters.

Robert Cornellier, founder of the College Notre Dame victims' committee, said "hundreds of victims are still waiting for justice to be done and to receive compensation."

Because "Brother Andre ensured children's safety as the porter at College Notre Dame, he would certainly favour the idea of helping these children, whose lives were shattered at this college."

Unlike some other parts of the world, where the Catholic church has "shown openness toward abuse victims, the church in Quebec is still trying to sweep it all under the rug," said Cornellier, whose brother suffered sexual abuse at the hands of four religious brothers beginning when he was 12 years old.

Lucie Martineau, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Montreal, said Turcotte has "a lot of sympathy" for abuse victims. But, she noted, the Big O event is organized by St. Joseph's Oratory, which would have to decide whether any money will go to victims of abuse.

Martineau said Turcotte has been at a meeting of bishops in Cornwall, Ont., and has not publicly responded to the groups' request.

In an open letter this week, Turcotte said the Big O event "demonstrates that there are a great number of Catholics in our city even though it's a time when faith seems to be rendered silent and the church suffers from bad press and a negative image for the way it deals with pedophilia cases involving clergy."

A spokesperson for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops did not respond to a request for comment.

Officials at St. Joseph's Oratory did not return calls from The Gazette.

Out of respect for those attending the Big O event, the two abuse-victim groups say they will not picket outside.

But there will be demonstrators. Unionized workers at an east-end cemetery, Le Repos Saint-Francois d'Assise, said they will protest outside the Big O to protest lagging contract talks. The Archdiocese of Montreal is part owner of the cemetery.

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