Bishop re­sponds to abuse with state­ment

The Delhi News-Record - - FRONT PAGE - JEN­NIFER BIEMAN

On the heels of a set­tle­ment with an in­sur­ance com­pany seek­ing com­pen­sa­tion for sex abuse pay­outs — the cul­mi­na­tion of a 10-year le­gal bat­tle — the Ro­man Catholic bishop for south­west­ern On­tario is is­su­ing a sweep­ing state­ment re­spond­ing to sex­ual abuse of mi­nors by clergy to be read at ev­ery par­ish.

Bishop Ron­ald Fab­bro is pre­par­ing a writ­ten state­ment that will be de­liv­ered as a homily at ev­ery mass in the dis­trict on the week­end of Sept. 16 — one day be­fore the trial be­tween the dio­cese and AXA In­sur­ance is set to be­gin in Lon­don.

Both sides reached a set­tle­ment on June 20, On­tario Su­pe­rior Court doc­u­ments ob­tained by Postmedia show.

De­tails of the set­tle­ment have not been re­leased. AXA In­sur­ance sought re­pay­ment of $10 mil­lion in set­tle­ments given to sex abuse vic­tims — in­clud­ing those of Charles Sylvestre and John Harper — in re­la­tion to un­proven al­le­ga­tions the dio­cese ex­posed the in­surer to higher risk by shuf­fling prob­lem priests among parishes.

The lawyer for the dio­cese, John Down­ing, de­clined com­ment Fri­day.

The set­tle­ment ends a decade­long le­gal bat­tle be­tween the dio­cese and the in­surer. The dio­cese ini­ti­ated le­gal pro­ceed­ings against the in­sur­ance com­pany in 2008 af­ter it re­fused to pay out claims in two sex­ual abuse cases. AXA In­sur­ance filed a coun­ter­claim seek­ing $10 mil­lion.

In a state­ment, the Dio­cese of Lon­don said it is pleased the le­gal mat­ter is re­solved, but de­clined to dis­close fur­ther de­tails.

“There are con­fi­den­tial­ity clauses as part of the set­tle­ment with AXA In­sur­ance and so I am not able to com­ment fur­ther,” spokesper­son Nel­son Couto said in an email.

The ex­act con­tent of Fab­bro’s state­ment to parish­ioners Sept. 16 is in the works, Couto said. The ad­dress is meant to co­in­cide with the day of Our Lady of Sor­rows, an an­nual ob­ser­vance Catholics world­wide mark Sept. 15.

Ev­ery year, the dio­cese holds a spe­cial mass for sur­vivors of clergy sex­ual abuse to pray for “the heal­ing of our fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties, and for repa­ra­tion for the sins of cler­gyabusers,” Couto said in an email.

Hard copies of the Let­ter to the Faith­ful will be avail­able at the more than 130 parishes in the dio­cese — a dis­trict that in­cludes 440,000 church mem­bers across south­west­ern On­tario, from Wind­sor to Huron County.

The ad­dress will ex­press the bishop’s thoughts on “is­sues in the USA, their ef­fect on us here in this dio­cese, and the Dio­cese of Lon­don’s re­sponse over the years to what Bishop Fab­bro has called ‘the scourge of sex­ual abuse,’ ” Couto said.

It’s a scourge the re­gional dio­cese knows well.

At least 18 priests in the re­gion have been charged, con­victed or sued for sex­ual abuse, over and above the now-fin­ished civil case with AXA In­sur­ance.

Fab­bro’s dio­cese-wide ad­dress comes amid the grow­ing scan­dal in the Catholic church over its han­dling of sex­ual abuse al­le­ga­tions against mi­nors, reignited by a scathing Penn­syl­va­nia grand jury re­port re­leased in July.

The two-year in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which probed more than 500,000 pages of in­ter­nal dioce­san doc­u­ments sub­poe­naed by the state at­tor­ney gen­eral, un­cov­ered cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions against more than 300 priests across Penn­syl­va­nia’s six dio­ce­ses.

The re­port iden­ti­fied more than 1,000 chil­dren, but the grand jury be­lieves the ac­tual num­ber of chil­dren af­fected is in the thou­sands.

The bomb­shell re­port has pushed other states to take ac­tion, too.

On Thurs­day, New York’s at­tor­ney gen­eral launched a clergy abuse hot­line and on­line com­plaint sys­tem, part of an on­go­ing civil in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the of­fice into faulty re­views of sex­ual abuse al­le­ga­tions or po­ten­tial cover-ups.

But the sweep­ing ad­dress from the Lon­don dio­cese bishop ad­dress­ing sex­ual abuse isn’t nearly enough for Lon­don lawyer Rob Talach, who has rep­re­sented clients in law­suits against the dio­cese for many years.

“It’s a de­fen­sive move . . . What can they say?” he said.

“Some pro­nounce­ment of a let­ter from the pul­pit isn’t go­ing to do any­thing for any­body . . . The vast ma­jor­ity of rea­son­able folks are go­ing to look at this for what it is, which is a PR ac­tion.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.