Checking records of several Quebec dioceses identifies 87 church abusers: report

The Catholic Church said it welcomed the report, adding that it was important to confirm that no attackers were currently working for the church.

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MONTREAL — An independent audit of more than 80 years of records involving nine Catholic dioceses in Quebec found at least 87 abusers among church personnel, according to a summary of findings released Wednesday.

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Retired Superior Court Judge André Denis reviewed the records of 6,809 people employed between 1940 and 2021 and discovered 87 employees who were the subject of confirmed or substantiated sexual abuse allegations involving minors or adults vulnerable.

Denis says his mandate was two-fold: first, to root out those accused of abuse who were still working for the church, and second, to offer the church a historical portrait of the number of employees facing credible allegations. He says fewer than five of the 87 people were still working for the church when he completed his review.

“They can be counted on the fingers of one hand, but those who had allegations, they were removed from their posts and submitted to the disciplinary committees of the respective dioceses,” Denis said in an interview on Wednesday.

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The 87 people he identified represented 1.28% of those employed by the church during the period studied.

The verification concerned the dioceses of two ecclesiastical jurisdictions — Montreal and Gatineau — which include several large cities, such as Joliette, Longueuil, St-Jérôme and Valleyfield. “I believe that the archives are reasonably complete and give a good explanation of about 60% of the territory of Quebec,” said Denis.

“The church needed to know what proportion – for sure there are those who didn’t file a complaint, but it’s not, say, 25% of the cases,” Denis said, adding that if the actual number of people accused of abuse is likely a bit higher than 87, he said he thought that number was more or less accurate.

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Denis also said he was unable to detect a systematic transfer of priests from one parish to another once abuse or misconduct was discovered.

He began his work in December 2020 and said he has access to all archival documents, including those that are usually only viewed with the archbishop’s approval. In sum, Denis says he consulted nearly 10,000 documents, including the files of bishops, priests, deacons, pastoral associates and diocesan personnel.

The 87 people he identified worked for a diocese or parish, but not for institutions such as colleges or boarding schools run by religious congregations that do not report to bishops who oversee dioceses in the two jurisdictions studied.

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Denis said it would now be up to individual dioceses to decide what to do with the information he gathered.

The archbishops responsible for those two regions said in a statement on Wednesday that they welcomed Denis’ report, adding that it was important to confirm that no attackers were currently working for the church.

“The objective of the review is to ensure that no pastoral staff member currently serving in our parishes has been the subject of substantiated allegations of sexual abuse,” Bishop Paul-André Durocher said. of the Archdiocese of Gatineau in a press release.

“Our parishioners can be sure that a thorough auditing process has been carried out.”

In an interview, Bishop Christian Lépine of the Archdiocese of Montreal said it was important to ensure that documents in the possession of the church had been properly reviewed. He said it was possible that not all incidents of sexual abuse were reported and that it is also possible that no records were kept for some cases of abuse.

“For a victim, it can take decades to come forward, so we know it can still happen,” Lepine said, describing the comprehensive findings as a “snapshot.”

“Today’s report is like a picture of a moving train, at this exact moment, what we have in our records, what we can say about the substantiated allegations,” Lepine said. “Do we have a judgment on everything? No, everything will go through the internal processes of each diocese.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 8, 2022.

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