Clergy abuse support group reaches N.L.

Ashley
Ashley Fitzpatrick
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An international non-profit group providing support for victims of sexual abuse by priests is expanding its presence in Canada.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has opened a new branch for the Maritimes and is reaching out to abuse victims in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The group is also launching a call for changes to Catholic Church policy aimed, they say, at protecting against future abuse.

SNAP has branches in Edmonton, Vancouver, Montreal and, as of October of this year, Saint John, N.B.

Despite the name, the U.S.-based non-profit is open to those abused by laypersons and clerical members of a religious order, as well as non-secular groups.

It survives on donations and volunteers, with five staff members at its core.

The organization’s move into the Maritimes began in mid-October. In less than a month, the branch leader for SNAP Maritimes said he had been contacted by over 80 people, with 61 having identified themselves as victims and signed on for more information and monthly survivor meetings.

Dave Mantin told The Telegram he’d be interested in connecting with survivors in this province and beginning meetings here.

He will be in St. John’s this week, meeting with two abuse survivors.

He will also be stopping at the offices of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John’s, to present Archbishop Martin Currie with a letter calling for three things: changes within Church regulations that would see priests accused of abuse listed on an international registry and tracked by the Church; payment for therapy for victims of the Church while cases await trial; and the immediate defrocking of priests who are convicted of abuse.

“These are drastic changes we are asking for and it’s for the protection of the children and to help the victims of sexual abuse,” Mantin said.

The Telegram contacted the archdiocese but Currie is in Peru until Nov. 17, participating in celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the presence of the Sisters of Mercy in Newfoundland.

However, an emailed statement sent by his his executive assistant, Anne Walsh, noted, “the scourge of sexual abuse by members of the clergy at all levels is a scandal and a tragedy for the victim/survivor and the secondary victims — family, parishioners and the people, inside and outside the Church ‘family’ who look for something better, something hopeful.”

She noted a continued interest among the faithful in addressing the subject.

“The Church stands for the dignity of the human person and against abuse, exploitations and any form of subjugation, degradation and violation,” she wrote.

“We would welcome the collaboration of any group who would be willing to work with us for that better future.”

•••

That sentiment was met with skepticism by Mantin, who told The Telegram, he feels it has so far been left to SNAP and other members of the public to support victims, track abusive priests and push for systemic changes for abuse prevention.

The Church has been screening clergy since the 1980s. Dioceses in the province now suspend a priest or bishop from active ministry when an accusation of abuse has been made and are to immediately turn investigations over to the police.

But what concerns SNAP and others tracking offenders is the re-introduction of the convicted into the community without internal action being taken — such as defrocking — following their sentence.

These priests typically do not conduct mass, but have taken positions such as chaplains for hospitals and prisons.

In 1977, Father Leonard Paradis was a priest in Sheshatshiu.

In 1989, at the age of 41, he pleaded guilty to four charges of gross indecency — fondling the genitals of young male parishioners. He was sentenced to three years of probation and therapy.

In 1997, an Ottawa Sun report, titled “Sins of the Fathers,” revealed Paradis was occasionally offering mass at St. Joseph’s Church in Ottawa.

Similarly, Brother John Evangelist Murphy was found guilty in Newfoundland and Labrador in May 2004 of four counts of indecent assault dating back to the 1950s and 1960s. He was given a 20-month conditional sentence — house arrest.

That same year, he was found to be dealing with parishioners in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Albany, N.Y.

The diocesan spokesman told the Dallas Morning News they were not aware of Murphy’s background, or his sentence.

In Murphy’s case, parishioners raised concerns about his continued work in the diocese and a man in this province started mailing press clippings to people in the area.

Murphy was pulled from his duties in December 2004.

The simple attendance of a convicted priest at Church functions can be enough to cause public controversy.

In 2010, Archbishop Martin Currie came to the defence of Father Michael Walsh after parishioners in St. Brendan’s expressed their concerns about Walsh’s presence at such functions.

In 1991, Walsh had pleaded guilty to sexually abusing teenage boys in central Newfoundland.

Currie visited the community, celebrated mass and spoke to  parishioners about their concerns.

“He’ll never be a parish priest. He’ll never exercise any ministry. I may even tell him he’s not even to go to church anymore out there,” Currie said, attempting to calm the disturbance.

•••

A lawyer based in Ontario, Rob Talach said he supports the changes to Church procedure that S.N.A.P. is asking for, including the defrocking of convicted priests.

Talach was part of a team from law firm Ledroit Beckett that achieved a $3-million judgement against the Diocese of London (Ontario) on behalf of a family that had three children sexually abused by a priest. He has worked on hundreds of sexual abuse cases.

“(The Church) can’t supervise these guys effectively. They don’t let enough people know their past,” he said.

“The biggest problem with him coming back and supposedly being supervised or being restricted is that not everybody knows who are the bad apples and who aren’t. So how can you supervise someone when the supervisors don’t even know and many times the restrictions have slowly lifted?”

Talach said even with a good parish pastoral team willing to supervise a convicted priest, there’s too much risk involved in allowing a known abuser to maintain his status within the church.

“He’s wearing a Roman collar. He’s walking down the street. He’s going to schools. He’s going to be places where he’s going to bump into someone who doesn’t know his past, and to them, that collar gives him instant respect, prestige and authority,” he said.

He also said that’s unfair to priests who have not committed any crimes, leading the public to question whether or not they are one of the “recycled” priests.

“Listen, there are thousands of different types of occupations in this world. Why would we ever let someone return to the same job that they manipulated to abuse children?”

As for tracking convicted clergy, Canada’s National Sex Offenders Registry only came into effect in December 2004 and it is not retroactive, meaning clergy sentenced before that year would not be included.

•••

Abuse by clergy is not simply in this province’s past.

The Mount Cashel Orphanage cases have stretched into the present, as extradition requests were considered for Christian Brothers who had made their way to the United States and civil cases settled.

In 2005, 39 former altar boys who worked with Father Kevin Bennett, all now adults struggling to recover from the lifelong impacts of his abuse, were collectively awarded $13 million in compensation. As The Telegram has reported, some are still awaiting their full settlements. 

And new cases have come along.

In 2008, Father Patrick Robert Offin, then 55, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a young girl at his home in Holyrood. He was given a suspended sentence — no jail time, but a criminal record. His name is listed in the National Sex Offenders Registry.

In 2010, Father George Smith was removed from his duties in a parish on Prince Edward Island when RCMP in this province were approached by a man who said he had been sexually abused by the priest while he was serving here. The man alleged it happened between 1978 and 1980, while he was an altar boy at St. Columcille Roman Catholic Church in St. Fintan’s.

When news of the allegations against Smith first broke, after halting his work in P.E.I., both the bishop of the Corner Brook and Labrador Roman Catholic Diocese and the RCMP said they did not know his whereabouts.

This week, the RCMP confirmed that the investigation is continuing but no charges have been laid.

Meanwhile, the sentencing of Archbishop Raymond Lahey, who had worked here and in Antigonish, N.S., is set to continue by year’s end.

SNAP has called for jail time for Lahey, who was found to have child pornography on his laptop at the airport in Ottawa in 2009. Close to 600 pornographic images featuring young boys were discovered on his computer and phone.

Lahey had overseen a $13-million settlement for child abuse victims in the Antigonish diocese. He also provided testimony for many the court cases in this province, questioned on his knowledge of abuse by members of the Church.

•••

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John’s has said that, as of 2010, if a priest or bishop is convicted he will be subject to a Church trial, after his civil trial.

The potential penalties from the church trial include defrocking, being sentenced to a life of prayer and penance in an isolated setting, or the removal of certain rights and privileges.

Mantin said SNAP would like to see that in writing from each diocese in Atlantic Canada.

 

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Catholic Church, The Telegram, Church in Ottawa.Similarly RCMP Dallas Morning News Christian Brothers Roman Catholic Diocese

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, United States, Edmonton Vancouver Montreal Saint John Peru Ontario Sheshatshiu Joseph Albany, N.Y. London Antigonish Canada Holyrood Prince Edward Island Corner Brook Atlantic Canada.afitzpatrick

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Recent comments

  • Lucy Hodge
    December 10, 2011 - 22:09

    In 1991, I was a member of the Winter Commission looking into the abuse of young boys by the Christian Brothers (I use THOSE words lightly) AND the priests who were found guilty in Newfoundland, AND seeking compensation for them...and it's only NOW that SNAP or ANYONE has decided this is an ISSUE??????? I truly find that not only sad, but appalling. I no longer enter a Catholic Church...nor do I ever intend to. All of my first 38 years, I was 'guilted' by the Fire and Brimstone League into going to Church, being belittled as a woman...after all, 'we' were only good enough for mopping floors, preparing Altars, doing the music and the readings...and GOD forbid a woman have an OPINION! I find it both loathsome and heinous that these awful acts were inflicted not only on innocent children, as one person wrote, but also upon complete families...and I know personally, that when growing up, we were terrified of priests and were always looked down upon because most of our father's were fishermen. If they did visit the town where I grew up, there were only a couple of homes they visited...they were the 'knighted' ones, or homes of merchants...and even as a child, I held them in disdain, because I KNEW this was not what had been preached by God! Today, I have two granddaughters who have not been baptized and some of our family members are horrified....OF WHAT? That some pries won't FONDLE them while baptizing them? I told my children to do what THEY thought was right for their children and if they didn't want to drag them into a cult of religion renowned for it's barbaric treatment of children and young people, and they did choose...to leave their children until THEY are old enough to decide where they wish to worship, OR if, GASP...they simply prefer to be 'spiritualists!' I think there is nothing MORE crucifying in this world than to be abused at the hands of someone supposedly in power,k and then to later find out that the people supposedly taking care of this were shuffling them around to other communities like checkers on a checker board simply sickens me! They should not only have been defrocked and moved from Parish to Parish...they should have been locked up behind MAXIMUM prison walls, never to see the light of day again....AND released into the general population there, to boot....because they DID say,..."Do unto others as is done onto YOU!" God is SOO far from those bastard's lives as the Devil is up close and comfy to them.....and it is NOT my place to judge...but when is sitting there at a news conference that is supposed to bring attention to the VICTIMS, and the then eunuch, Archbishop Penney, decides that HE will steal the limelight by deciding that very MOMENT to resign...and NOT because of the abuse either...but merely to DEFLECT the attention FROM them, I was never more ashamed to be baptized Roman Catholic in my LIFE! And as for those who didn't believe it happened, it DID...and I personally spoke to some of the victims, and it was one of THE most humbling moments of my life. I only hope this is not another organization/group set up to rip open the wounds of those who have already suffered and to what avail? If it is to help them monetarily, as it SHOULD...THAT compensation should come from the almighty Vatican, which is STILL harboring goods stolen from the Jews and delivered there for safe keeping by the NAZI'S, whom the wonderful Catholic Church harbored at that time! And NOT from Public Donations....it was PRIESTS and Brothers who did this, and their EMPLOYER, who KNEW, should pay. If you want to know the 'history' of the wonderful Church, please watch "The Borgia's" which debuted last year...it was called the FIRST CRIME FAMILY...and it involved murder, stealing, sex, and every other sin that one can even IMAGINE to keep the mighty Papacy in it''s place! I know one thing...I lost one of MY pillars when all of this came to light, but as I stated earlier, even as a young child, I knew it was WRONG to be treated the way I was, with such DISRESPECT, by someone marauding in a turned around collar, who thought HE was GOD! And when MY time here on Earth has ended, "I" shall take it up with MY God....a true and loving one, in my belief, and not with some 'self-made prophet indoctrinated into a cult of celibacy' which is THE biggest joke ever....while ruining the lives of countless people, playing GOD!

  • Lucy Hodge
    December 10, 2011 - 22:07

    In 1991, I was a member of the Winter Commission looking into the abuse of young boys by the Christian Brothers (I use THOSE words lightly) AND the priests who were found guilty in Newfoundland, AND seeking compensation for them...and it's only NOW that SNAP or ANYONE has decided this is an ISSUE??????? I truly find that not only sad, but appalling. I no longer enter a Catholic Church...nor do I ever intend to. All of my first 38 years, I was 'guilted' by the Fire and Brimstone League into going to Church, being belittled as a woman...after all, 'we' were only good enough for mopping floors, preparing Altars, doing the music and the readings...and GOD forbid a woman have an OPINION! I find it both loathsome and heinous that these awful acts were inflicted not only on innocent children, as one person wrote, but also upon complete families...and I know personally, that when growing up, we were terrified of priests and were always looked down upon because most of our father's were fishermen. If they did visit the town where I grew up, there were only a couple of homes they visited...they were the 'knighted' ones, or homes of merchants...and even as a child, I held them in disdain, because I KNEW this was not what had been preached by God! Today, I have two granddaughters who have not been baptized and some of our family members are horrified....OF WHAT? That some priest won't FONDLE them while baptizing them? I told my children to do what THEY thought was right for their children and if they didn't want to drag them into a cult of religion renowned for it's barbaric treatment of children and young people, and they did choose...to leave their children until THEY are old enough to decide where they wish to worship, OR if, GASP...they simply prefer to be 'spiritualists!' I think there is nothing MORE crucifying in this world than to be abused at the hands of someone supposedly in power,k and then to later find out that the people supposedly taking care of this were shuffling them around to other communities like checkers on a checker board simply sickens me! They should not only have been defrocked and moved from Parish to Parish...they should have been locked up behind MAXIMUM prison walls, never to see the light of day again....AND released into the general population there, to boot....because they DID say,..."Do unto others as is done onto YOU!" God is SOO far from those deviant's lives as the Devil is up close and comfy to them.....and it is NOT my place to judge...but when is sitting there at a news conference that is supposed to bring attention to the VICTIMS, and the then eunuch, Archbishop Penney, decided that HE would steal the limelight by deciding that very MOMENT to resign...and NOT because of the abuse either...but merely to DEFLECT the attention FROM them, I was never more ashamed to be baptized Roman Catholic in my LIFE! And as for those who didn't believe it happened, it DID...and I personally spoke to some of the victims, and it was one of THE most humbling moments of my life. I only hope this is not another organization/group set up to rip open the wounds of those who have already suffered and to what avail? If it is to help them monetarily, as it SHOULD...THAT compensation should come from the almighty Vatican, which is STILL harboring goods stolen from the Jews and delivered there for safe keeping by the NAZI'S, whom the wonderful Catholic Church harbored at that time! And NOT from Public Donations....it was PRIESTS and Brothers who did this, and their EMPLOYER, who KNEW, should pay. If you want to know the 'history' of the wonderful Church, please watch "The Borgia's" which debuted last year...it was called the FIRST CRIME FAMILY...and it involved murder, stealing, sex, and every other sin that one can even IMAGINE to keep the mighty Papacy in it''s place! I know one thing...I lost one of MY pillars when all of this came to light, but as I stated earlier, even as a young child, I knew it was WRONG to be treated the way I was, with such DISRESPECT, by someone marauding in a turned around collar, who thought HE was GOD! And I will take that up with MY God when the time comes, and not someone who is hiding in a supposedly 'celibate' organization that specialized in ruining countless lives and STILL holds us in disdain to this day, because WE FOUND OUT!!!!!!!! AND OUTED THEM!

  • gerry
    November 13, 2011 - 20:27

    maybe over in peru, sexual abuse has not been found out yet........

  • Judy Jones
    November 13, 2011 - 19:56

    Church officials can not be trusted to have victim's and our children’s best interest at heart. This has become apparent time and time again. Child predators are very cunning and manipulative. They know every trick on how to groom, threaten, lie, and put the fear of god into their victims and sometimes even their family members. They also appear to do a lot of goods things, they can be very charismatic and you may think they would never harm a child. They have to be this way, in order to not get caught and to continue to abuse Sexual predators are often powerful, charismatic and well-loved. It would be comforting if those who preyed on the vulnerable were obvious social misfits whose appearance would somehow set off alarm bells and give us ‘the willies’ or ‘the creeps.’ They rarely do. Usually, predators are among the last people we would suspect of sexually violating others. At a party, the predator isn’t some oddball sitting alone in a corner because others feel uncomfortable with him. Most often, the predator is the guy throwing the party. We must overcome the dangerous myth that because someone is successful or warm or caring, he or she “couldn’t have done that! Also, we must stop thinking that because a man is old, that somehow he’s automatically “safe.” It’s just irresponsible to endanger kids by assuming an adult is “harmless” simply because he or she may be losing hair, wearing glasses, using hearing aids or walking with a cane. These can be signs of advancing age, but they are not signs that an individual is safe around kids. It is extremely rare that a child predator has only one victim. Predator priests can never be trusted to be around children ever, and by allowing them to continue to wear a priests collar makes them authority figure, and is extremely dangerous situation for vulnerable kids and family members. Hopefully now, because SNAP chapters have started in the Maritimes. many victims who have been harmed will be able connect with each other, be understood, and know that they are not alone. Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511 snapjudy@gmail.com "Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests" and all clergy. http://www.snapnetwork.org/

  • Mary Benedict
    November 13, 2011 - 08:01

    I used to be a catholic but I saw the light. I think all priests found to be abusers should immediately be defrocked and punished the same as any other sex abusers. I also feel that the archbishop who knew all about Jim Hickey should also be held accountable for allowing the abuse to continue for so long. They only pick and choose parts of the Bible to give messages on because they don't beleive all the Bible, which is God's Holy Word, you either beleive all or none.

  • mj
    November 13, 2011 - 07:34

    Another witch hunt. People love to hate the catholic church, probably a bit jealous. My son was on the altar with a priest who was accused in that Village Mall thing. The parish instantly looked at this priest differently. And then the priest was totally exonerated. Made me learn to not think so quickly. And look at this S.N.A.P. with a bit of skepticism!

  • Joe McGrath
    November 12, 2011 - 13:35

    Just what the abused kids need.Another survior group from up a long who fail to realize that NL is an Atlantic province and not referred to as one of the Maritime group.How many folks,groups, hang-a -shores are trying to make a buck on the abused kids past trouble.I feel for anyone who suffered abuse and urge quickly settling the matters.The present situation serves no one and hampers attempts at closure.You go to SNAP website and one of the headings is for donations suggesting up to $6000 plus even more????Maybe the tely reported should gets from real facts on SNAP but I would not hold my breath as the editor/writers and other cheap rentals from the burnt out Geritol section of the Press club who work there seem content to throw gas on the flames and run shooting"FIRE"'FIRE".My advice .... Do NOT Trust Anyone. Look After #1. Everybody's in Sales.

    • Dave Mantin
      November 14, 2011 - 11:23

      For one, all members of S.N.A.P are victims of sexual abuse by clergy, and through our fellowship learn ways to heal. This is done with our groups, news letters and phone calls. We also as a group stand up for the victims and speak out in the news to ensure that it does not happen to this and the next generation of children. If 20 years ago S.N.A.P was a group and as public as it has become now, I would not be speaking as a victim of abuse to the media today. In my personal story, I could not speak about what had happened to me for ever 20 years and when I read a story that was published by A.N.A.P they gave me the courage to report my abuse and to begin the healing process. Ten months ago I became a father of a baby boy and realized that I have to do something to ensure that it does not happen to any other children. So I took on the challenge to bring S.N.A.P to the east coast of Canada and help those still suffering in silence . My personal story is posted on the link below http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/city/article/1447070 Maritime S.N.A.P Leader toll free 1 (888) 241 0095 Direct 1 (506) 654 8524 snapmantin@gmail.com www.snapnetwork.org

  • tometoe
    November 12, 2011 - 13:26

    Folks should attend a "mass" at a catholic church, get the sunday bulletin. You will find many pleas for money for different "affairs" u could even make purchases at most churches. Matierial needs of vthe church are greater than spiritual advice. Anmd do not vforget the Bingos.. But the pastor may not be there..perhaps on his third vacation for the year. Stomach turning is what the chuirch has become. Trips to Peru are not free....

  • Dave Mantin
    November 12, 2011 - 10:17

    Our Maritime S.N.A.P contact information. Email - snapmantin@gmail.com or call 506 654 8524. Remember you are not alone, please contact us with any concerns

  • Dave Mantin
    November 12, 2011 - 10:02

    Our Maritime S.N.A.P contact information. Email - snapmantin@gmail.com or call 506 654 8524. Remember you are not alone, please contact us with any concerns

  • former catholic
    November 12, 2011 - 08:23

    I hope the archbishop enjoys his trip to Peru . Perhaps supporting victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the church would be money well spent. The R.C. Church has a responsibility to settle abuse claims and to offer counselling services to victims . They covered it up and let it continue on for years and now they have to accept responsibility.