Sexual abuse by Catholic clergy
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By: B.A. Robinson
March 26, 2002 / Religious Tolerance.org
Note: Dollar amounts in this essay are in Canadian dollars. Divide by about 1.6 to convert to American dollars.
- "I saw many young children beaten up and strapped. I saw Brother --- wake up young children and take them to a room to sexually assault them. I saw children handcuffed to a pillar in the basement. They would be pushed and kicked. I saw Brother --- use a pool table stick to hit children if they would not have anal sex with him. Children were given cold showers then strapped. If I told any Brothers that another Brother tried to have sex with me, I would be strapped." From a report on abuse at St. Joseph's and St. John's Training School for Boys. 1
- " 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee? ' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Amen I say to you, as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do it for me.' " A description of Jesus' "final judgement" of the people of all nations, found in Matthew 25:31-51 in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament).
Reports of child sexual abuse by Canadian Roman Catholic clergy, Brothers, and employees appear to have peaked in the 1990s. They have since declined. "The wave of cases now hitting U.S. courts...has already crested" in Canada. 2 Reverend William Kokesch, director of communications services for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said in 2002-MAR: "What the church in the U.S. is now going through, we faced about 10 years ago." 3 It seems that Canadian dioceses recognized the magnitude of abuse sooner than their American counterparts. Most have abandoned earlier policies of denial and cover-up, and have developed programs to handle any new allegations openly and with fairness to the victims.
at the Mount Cashel orphanage in Newfoundland:
The Christian Brothers of Ireland in Canada (CBIC) is a branch of a lay Roman Catholic order which was founded in Ireland. They are most commonly referred to simply as the "Christian Brothers." They have opened schools in many countries; one was the Mount Cashel orphanage in St. John's, Newfoundland, on the East coast of Canada.
For many years, the local priests and the rest of the Roman Catholic church clergy were highly respected by almost all Newfoundlanders. Their behavior was considered beyond criticism. The Provincial government and police adopted a hands-off policy towards religious matters. When allegations of physical and sexual abuse started to surface in the late 1980s, the government, police and church cooperated in an unsuccessful cover-up.
The conspiracy of silence could not hold indefinitely. In 1989-DEC:
"...allegations of sexual and physical abuse were publicized in St. John's Sunday Express. Within six months, the last remaining resident was placed in alternative accomodation [sic] and Mount Cashel [was] closed down permanently." 4
More than 300 former pupils eventually alleged physical and sexual abuse at the orphanage. Gordon A. Winter headed the Winter Commission which was charged with investigating the accusations. They issued a Report of the Archdiocean Commission of Inquiry into Sexual Abuse of Children in 1990-JUN. In 1992, four men in the Roman Catholic lay order were charged with the sexual and physical abuse of boys at the orphanage during the 1970s. In 1996, six additional members of the order were charged with sexually and physically abusing 17 boys at the same orphanage between 1950 and 1964. 3 Nine lay brothers were eventually convicted:
"Archbishop Alphonsus Penney of Newfoundland resigned in 1990 after an internal investigative panel placed some of the blame for cover-ups of the abuse on him." 5
The courts ordered the order's assets sold in order to compensate their victims. In 2000-DEC, The Star Phoenix newspaper [Saskatoon, SK], reported that senior leaders of the Christian brothers in Rome transferred ownership of some of the teaching order's assets out of Canada in order to prevent millions of dollars from being liquidated and used to pay compensation to the victims. There are also allegations that the Catholic hierarchy in Vancouver tried to help the Christian Brothers shield additional assets in the form of two Vancouver schools: Vancouver College and St. Thomas More. "They were by far the largest asset held by the Brothers. They are estimated to be worth between $38 and $43 million dollars." 6
During 1996, the Province of Newfoundland has paid $11.25 million to settle about 40 Mount Cashel claims. Other victims of the Christian Brothers' abuse have initiated claims for additional compensation from the Province.
On 2002-JUL-27, the two Vancouver schools reached an out-of-court settlement to pay $19 million dollars to the liquidating company, Deloitte & Touche, who was appointed to wind up the assets of the Christian Brothers. Unfortunately, the Province of Newfoundland is "by far the largest single claimant on the Christian Brothers' estate." 6 The liquidator is also owed about $3 million. If both collect their claims in full, then less than $5 million will be left to compensate the victims. David Wingfield, spokesperson for the liquidator, wrote in a news release that settling on $19 million for an approximately $40 million dollar asset is reasonable. He said "Our job is to get money for claimants, not to run continuous litigation." He said that the church side effectively made liquidation "difficult." 6 Barry Stagg, a Newfoundland lawyer for a Mount Cashel victim, expressed the opinion that if Newfoundland attempts to recover money from the Christian Brothers estate, "there will be hell to pay in St. John's [Newfoundland]." 6
Abuse in Christian Brothers' schools in Ontario:
Allegations surfaced in the 1980s of widespread sexual abuse at two Ontario schools operated by separate Roman Catholic orders during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s :
- St. Joseph's Training School for Boys, in Alfred, ON, which was operated by the Christian Schools of Ottawa, and
- St. John's Training School for Boys, in Uxbridge, ON which was operated by the Toronto Christian Brothers.
The Ontario Provincial Police conducted an investigation in 1990 and laid 200 charges against 30 Christian Brothers (one source says 28 Brothers plus one employee). Counts ranged from "assault causing bodily harm to indecent assault and sodomy." 7 There would have been more charges, except that some of the Brothers had already died. "Archival documents showed that provincial officials had quietly investigated a raft of allegations of abuse at the schools, but never alerted police or prosecuted school staff." 8 Eventually, 700 former students came forward to allege abuse. About 400 organized a mutual support group, Helpline. Rather than pursue their legal options, they decided to seek mediation. They perceived that this offered a number of advantages:
- It avoids the adversarial process of conventional litigation, with its emotional and financial costs.
- It allows for a broader, more creative range of solutions than are possible in a legal settlement.
- Past relationships have a chance of being preserved -- particularly those between the student victims and their church.
- Successful mediation can empower the victims.
- Mediation is perceived as being more cost effective.
In 1992, they were able to reach an agreement with the Brothers of the Christian Schools of Ottawa, the Government of Ontario, the [Roman Catholic] Archdiocese of Ottawa, and the [Roman Catholic] Archdiocese of Toronto, which involved:
- Facilitation of apologies by those responsible for physical and sexual abuse.
- Financial compensation for pain and suffering.
- Financial advances for "medical / dental services, vocational rehabilitation, educational upgrading and literacy training."
- Provision of counseling services.
- Payment to ex-students who had not been paid for farm work and menial work while they were at the schools.
- A commitment by the participants to work towards "the eradication of child abuse." 9
Implementation of the agreement started in 1993-JAN. The financial settlement totaled $23 million. Amounts paid to the victims ranged from $2,500 to $107,944. Of all of the claimants, 97% were validated. The Toronto Christian Brothers, operators of the Uxbridge school, contributed $3 million, "but refused to sign the agreement, its lawyer calling the demand for money 'blackmail.' " 10 One hundred percent of the victims of the Alfred school voted to share their compensation equally with the ex-students of the Uxbridge schools. In return, the Alfred students were to receive a share of any future settlements received by Uxbridge victims. On 2002-JAN, a class-action suit was filed by David McCann, president of Helpline, against the Toronto Christian Brothers, alleging that they committed a breach of trust by paying some of the Uxbridge victims directly rather than assuring that the money was shared with the Alfred victims.
One part of the settlement, agreed to by the Province of Ontario's representative, stated "that the premier was to propose an all-party resolution in the legislature, apologizing for and condemning the abuse." In spite of requests from Aloysius Ambrozic, Archbishop of Toronto, and Senator Doug Roche, the head of the reconciliation committee, the then Ontario Premier Mike Harris refused to implement the agreement. 8 Instead, while he was out of town on 1996-JUN-25, he had the Attorney General of Ontario deliver an apology in the legislature on behalf of the people of Ontario. 11 The subsequent resolution was passed unanimously by the legislature, and was followed by a minute of silence. Almost four years later, on 2000-MAR-21, Harris commented to reporters: "Of course I apologize. I apologize as an Ontarian, as premier, as an individual." David McCann, an ex-student of the Alfred school is suing Harris over the delegated apology.
Conflict Resolution Network Canada 12 maintains a website which contains has a very complete description of the mediation process. It could be an excellent model for other groups of victims of clergy abuse who are weighing their options of whether to pursue resolution by mediation or through the courts.
Systematic child abuse in Native residential schools:
During the 19th and early 20th century, the the Canadian and U.S. governments attempted to assimilate their Native populations into the rest of society. The goal was to force Natives to disappear within the larger, predominately white, Christian society. A key component of this policy were the residential schools, which were operated in Canada for over a century, from 1879 to 1986. Most of these schools were operated by the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. The United Church of Canada and the Presbyterian Church in Canada also ran some schools. The federal government provided the funding, but appears to have done little monitoring of conditions at the schools.
Sometimes, children were kidnapped and taken long distances from their communities in order to attend school. Once there, they were generally held captive, isolated from their families of origin, and forcibly stripped of their language, religion, traditions and culture. Students were often beaten if they spoke their native language, or practiced the rituals of their faith. There are allegations that the students were often poorly fed and clothed. Sexual and physical abuse was widespread. Individual natives and native communities continue to suffer the after-effects of students' brutal and criminal treatment in these schools. As adults, many suffer with depression and alcohol addiction, have difficulty in parenting, and live with a loss of culture. The suicide rate among Native peoples in Canada is extremely high.
A sampling of examples of alleged abuse described in the media are:
About 7,000 survivors of these schools are currently suing the federal government and the religious organizations directly responsible for their inhumane treatment. The eventual number of plaintiffs will probably grow to over 10,000. In addition to allegations of personal abuse, many of the claims are based on the children's separation from their family of origin, and their loss of their aboriginal culture.
The Roman Catholic Church is not legally responsible for the abuse in the church's residential schools, because the church does not exist as a legal entity. Some of the schools were run by individual dioceses. Most were operated by the Oblates and similar church orders. The orders and dioceses are separately incorporated, and would be responsible for any liabilities at their schools.
The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate has repeatedly offered to turn over all of their assets to the federal government, if Ottawa would assume their total liability. They face about 2,000 lawsuits and estimate their potential liability to be $90 million. They speculate that if this is not done, the lawyers will get all of their assets, leaving nothing for their victims.
- Allegations of child sexual abuse by against Glen William Doughty, an Oblate brother, at St. Joseph's Residential School at Williams Lake and the Kuper Residential School, Vancouver Island. 13
- "To smile again as children," was a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio program about sexual and physical abuse the Innu of Labrador suffered since the late 1950s from the Oblate priests and brothers. On 2002-FEB-28, radio newscaster Judy Maddren said, on a World Report news program: "A nun who was hired to work as a counselor in Sheshatshuit Labrador in the early nineties, says the local Bishop at the time, covered up reports of sexual abuse. Labrador Innu have filed 46 lawsuits against the Roman Catholic church and the government. They say abuse took place as early as the 1960s in the two communities of Sheshatshuit and Davis Inlet. The church, in its statements of defense, says it never received a formal complaint, and denies the abuse took place. But Yvonne Maes tells a different story. She was a nun in Sheshatshuit at the time, and she says the Bishop was fully aware of the abuse and did everything he could to cover it up." 14
- The Aboriginal Healing Foundation publishes a newsletter "Healing Words." The 2001-FALL issue deals with Canada's residential school system. Included are maps, charts and pictures. Unfortunately, there seems to be a coding problem on their PDF file that renders almost the entire online copy black. 15
- A court case before the Supreme Court of British Columbia which relates to allegations of abuse by 32 plaintiffs who were residents of the Kuper Island residential school near Chemainus, BC, during parts of the 1930s until the mid-1970s. Defendants included the order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, two Sisters of St. Anne, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Victoria. 16
- Tom Phillips has sued the Attorney General of Canada, involving the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Cariboo as a third party. "This is an action for damages for sexual assault. The plaintiff alleges that he was physically and sexually assaulted by a number of persons during the time period from 1960 to 1968, while he was a child and a student attending at the St. George's Indian Residential School near Lytton, B.C." 17
Pedophilia in Cape Croker, ON, by Fr. George Epock:
Cape Croker is located near Georgian Bay 150 miles (190km) northwest of Toronto, Ontario. "Father George Epoch was a Jesuit priest who served the native communities on the Saugeen and Cape Croker reserves between 1971 and 1983. He was then transferred to Holy Cross Mission in Wikwemikong where he stayed until his death in 1986. Following accusations of child sexual abuse, the Jesuits began an investigation that revealed a vast framework of paedophilia that was set up by Father Epoch. The Jesuits accepted moral, but not legal, responsibility for these acts and in 1992 the leader of the Ontario Jesuit community presented a public apology on behalf of the Order." 11 Over the next two years, the Jesuits provided about $2 million to victims. They stopped their assistance, after having concluded that few positive results had occurred. A Reconciliation Agreement was then negotiated between the Jesuit Fathers of Upper Canada and some abuse victims. At the conclusion of the program, 97 claims had been made of which 83 were accepted as valid. The agreement provided:
- A written apology from the Jesuit Fathers of North America to each validated claimant.
- Written apologies which were sent to the Chiefs of the Band Councils at Cape Croker, Saugeen and Wikwemikong, requesting that they be published in Band newsletters. Copies were sent to the main newspapers in these communities.
- An individual, called a Recorder, to whom each victim could speak about their abuse.
- Compensation to each validated claimant of $25,000.
- Funds to upgrade education, obtain vocational training and meet medical and dental needs of up to $4,000.
- Funding totaling $500,000 for counseling services.
- Abuse at Canadian residential schools run by the Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian & United churches
- Native American Spirituality
- Suicide among Canada's Native people
- The extermination of Canada's Innu people
Books on abuse and other problems in boarding schools:
- John C. Cobb, "Emotional Problems of Indian Students in Boarding Schools and Related Public Schools: Workshop Proceedings, Albuquerque Indian School, 1960 - April 11 to 13." Educational Resources Information Center, Washington, D.C., (1971).
- Elizabeth Furniss, "A conspiracy of silence: The care of the Native students at St. Joseph's residential school, Williams Lake B.C.," Williams Lake, BC. Caribou Council, (1991)
- Celia Haig-Brown, "Resistance and Renewal: Surviving the Indian Residential School," Tillacum Library, Vancouver BC, (1988).
- Darcy Henton, et al., "Boys don't cry : the struggle for justice and healing in Canada's biggest sex abuse scandal," McClelland & Stewart, (1996). This discusses abuse by the Christian Brothers at St. Joseph's Training School and St. John's Training School, in Ontario. Contains a forward by Judge David Cole. Not for the squeamish. Out of print, but may be purchased used at the Amazon.com online bookstore.
- J.R. Miller, "Shingwauk's Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools," University of Toronto Press, (1996).
- Ruth Teichroeb, "Flowers on my grave: How an Ojibwa boy's death helped break the silence on child abuse," HarperCollins Canada, (1998)The story deals with Lester Desjarlais (1974-1988). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store This book discusses sexual abuse in a Native reserve.
- B.C. Hoffman, "The Search for Healing, Reconciliation and the Promise of Prevention -- The Recorder's Report Concerning Physical and Sexual Abuse at St. Joseph's and St. John's Training School for Boys," Reconciliation Process Implementation Committee, Ontario, Concorde Inc., (1995)
- Jennifer Peter, "Abuse scandal shrouds beginning of Holy Week: Catholics asked to take solace from Easter message of victory over evil," Associated Press, 2002-MAR-24. Published in Toronto Star, 2002-MAR-25, Page A2.
- Scott Simmie, "Victim abused by priest: 'Floodgates will open'," The Toronto Star, 2002-MAR-24, at: http://www.thestar.com
- "Canadian Orphanages and Maternity Homes," TRIAD Canada, at: http://www.triadcanada.ca/orphanages.htm
- "Members of Canadian Order charged in orphanage abuse case," 1996-NOV-20, Catholic World News, at: http://www.cwnews.com/Browse/
- "Sale of schools to help Mount Cashel victims: But creditors could claim most of the $19 million," Canadian Press. Published in the Toronto Star, 2002-JUL-26, Page A21.
- Goldie M. Shea, "Institutional Child Abuse in Canada: Redress Programs Relating to Institutional Child Abuse in Canada: "6. Ontario - St. John's and St. Joseph's - The Helpline Agreement," Law Commission of Canada, at: http://www.lcc.gc.ca/en/themes/mr/ica/
- Darcy Henton, "Archbishop asked Harris to apologize for Ont. school abuse: court documents," Yahoo News Canada, 2002-JAN-20, at: http://ca.news.yahoo.com/020120/6
- Douglas Roche & Ben Hoffman, "The Vision to Reconcile: Process Report on the Helpline Reconciliation Model Agreement," (1993) at: http://www.nicr.ca/publications/fund/helpline/
- Art Babych, "Suit filed against religious orders," 2002-JAN-28, Western Catholic Reporter, at: http://www.wcr.ab.ca/news/2002/0128/
- "Legislative Assembly of Ontario #94, 1996-JUN-25, Orders of the Day," at: http://www.ontla.on.ca/documents/votes/
- Conflict Resolution Network Canada has a web site at: https://www.crnetwork.ca/
- Jane Armstrong, "Oblate brother faces dozens of sex charges - allegations are that assaults occurred at a B.C. residential school" The Globe and Mail newspaper, 2000-JUN-2, Page A3.
- Judy Maddren, "World Report," CBC, 2001-FEB-28, at: http://cbc.ca/insite/WORLD_REPORT
- Aboriginal Healing Foundation, Newsletter for 2001-Fall, at: http://www.ahf.ca/english-pdf/newsletter_2001_fall.pdf
- "P.J. et al v. The Attorney General of Canada et al: 2000 BCSC 1780," 2000-DEC-21, at: http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/
- "Phillips v. Attorney General of Canada et al 2001 BCSC 522," 2001-APR-5, at: http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/