RC dio­cese to ap­peal rul­ing on set­tle­ment

Judge found dio­cese knew about abu­sive priest’s ac­tiv­i­ties be­fore sur­vivor’s 1996 law­suit

The London Free Press - - LOCAL - JANE SIMS [email protected]­media.com twit­ter.com/JaneatLFPress

Sex­ual abuse sur­vivor Irene Desch­enes’ civil suit set­tle­ment won’t be re­opened as soon as she hoped.

The Ro­man Catholic Dio­cese of Lon­don con­firmed Fri­day it plans to ap­peal Su­pe­rior Court Jus­tice David As­ton’s Nov. 27 de­ci­sion al­low­ing Desch­enes to set aside the set­tle­ment in her 1996 law­suit for abuse she suf­fered at the hands of then-priest Charles Sylvestre.

“We re­spect the judge’s de­ci­sion, but with re­spect to him we dis­agree with his in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the law,” the dio­cese said in a state­ment. “The Dio­cese of Lon­don will be pur­su­ing an ap­peal.”

Desch­enes, 57, an­nounced Thurs­day that, in a ground­break­ing court de­ci­sion, she had been given the go-ahead to re­open the case, cit­ing ev­i­dence that the dio­cese had in its possession Sar­nia po­lice re­ports from 1962 about Sylvestre’s abuse of lit­tle girls — proof the dio­cese knew about Sylvestre’s ac­tiv­i­ties long be­fore Desch­enes be­came one of his vic­tims.

“I find that their ap­peal­ing this is ap­palling,” Desch­enes said Fri­day. She said she was ini­tially sad­dened by the de­vel­op­ment, then be­came an­gry.

“I’m not sur­prised and the rea­son I’m not sur­prised is that it’s an­other de­lay tac­tic,“she said.

She said she plans to keep fight­ing. “I’m go­ing to be around an­other 40 years. I have a few more years left in me to fight this and that’s what I am go­ing to do,” she said.

The po­lice re­ports were dis­cov­ered in the back of a fil­ing cab­i­net in the ac­count­ing depart­ment in Oc­to­ber 2006, six years af­ter Desch­enes set­tled the case and two months af­ter Sylvestre was sen­tenced to three years in prison for 47 counts of in­de­cent as­sault on girls in South­west­ern On­tario parishes be­tween 1952 and 1986.

He died four months into his prison sen­tence.

The po­lice re­ports, de­tail­ing the state­ments of three 11-year-old girls who said they had been sex­u­ally abused by Sylvestre, were sent to Bishop John Cody, who died of a sud­den heart at­tack in 1963.

The same month, Sylvestre was sent by the church to Que­bec.

As­ton heard there was an dili­gent search for in­for­ma­tion about Sylvestre in church files for Desch­enes’ law­suit. Noth­ing was found and the church’s po­si­tion was that no one knew of Sylvestre’s ac­tiv­i­ties and there hadn’t been any com­plaints be­fore Desch­enes’.

As­ton sym­pa­thized that the search didn’t turn up the po­lice re­ports, but de­cided be­cause the church is a cor­po­rate body, and be­cause Cody, the bishop and leader, knew about the re­ports, the dio­cese knew about it, too.

Desch­enes set­tled in 2000 for $100,000 be­cause she didn’t have the nec­es­sary proof that was doc­u­mented in the po­lice re­ports that the church had knowl­edge of Sylvestre’s abu­sive be­hav­iour.

Af­ter she set­tled, she col­lected the sto­ries of other women who were abused and took them to the Chatham po­lice. That sparked the crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion.

Desch­enes and one other sur­vivor were the only com­plainants who went through the civil process with­out the po­lice re­ports.

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