Catholic Church Wilfully Blind Again, Leaders of Victims Groups Say
By Paul Cherry
Montreal Gazette via Strathroy Age Dispatch
November 25, 2020
|"The thing that has changed is that victims are less and less afraid to file complaints," says Sebastien Richard, , who was sexually abused as a boy and was part of a successful class-action suit against the church. DAVE SIDAWAY / MONTREAL GAZETTE FILES|
The disturbing details that emerged from Justice Pepita Capriolo’s report on how the Catholic Church ignored warning signs and adopted a culture of secrecy as Brian Boucher, now a convicted pedophile, made his way toward being ordained a priest sounded all too familiar to people who represent other victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests in Quebec.
Boucher, now 58, was convicted last year of sexually assaulting two boys: one while working at Our Lady of the Annunciation Church in Town of Mount Royal, the other at St. John Brebeuf Parish in LaSalle.
Capriolo was asked to do an audit of the time Boucher spent in the Catholic Church and found warning signs were ignored before he was ordained.
“I think we can certainly talk about wilful blindness which was for the longest time the modus operandi of the Roman Catholic Church in Quebec and elsewhere in cases of abuse of children,” said Carlo Tarini, director of communication for the Comite des victimes des pretres. The group has supported victims of abuse who have filed class-action suits against Catholic orders in the past.
“Certainly, the prevailing method of dealing with pedophile priests was to tell them they should pray to redeem their sins. Unfortunately, prayers have nothing to do with preventing pedophiles from abusing children, which is something the Church should have certainly known,” Tarini said.
“Unfortunately, the Roman Catholic Church and the bishops have treated pedophilia as a sin as opposed to a very serious crime. For a sin you can atone something through prayer. Unfortunately, history has taught us that not many priests were ever fired. They are the only segment of our society that has proven to be wilfully blind, causing harm to so many children.”
Sebastien Richard, who was sexually abused as a boy and was part of a class-action suit against the Congregation de Ste. Croix and the Montreal school it ran, College Notre Dame, that resulted in an $18-million settlement in 2011, said Capriolo’s report reveals again the Catholic Church kept quiet while people tried to raise red flags about one of their priests.
He recalled how, during the class-action suit, victims learned that one priest who abused boys was, at one point, left in charge of the congregation’s archives. So he wasn’t surprised to hear that records referring to Boucher had been destroyed.
“When we look at the findings on how the Catholic Church managed similar complaints in the United States, Australia, Ireland and here in Quebec, we see the same pattern. Everybody knows what it is. The rule of silence reigns supreme,” Richard said. “But the thing that has changed is that victims are less and less afraid to file complaints.
“That is a healthy sign and the courts are now more and more likely to believe a victim. At the time when I filed a criminal complaint in 2006, I wouldn’t say that priests weren’t ready to believe us. But the defence that would come out of the aggressors was that the victim, through their erratic behaviour, was the source of the problem when in fact the victim was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (from having been abused).
“More and more now, victims are believed.”