Swept under the rug

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There are few words that can describe the destructive legacy of a child molester — and least not ones that can be used in print.

It’s hard to believe there was a time when such deeds were regularly swept under the carpet without question. Even harder to conceive they still are in many circles.

On Wednesday, victims of confessed child molester George Ansel Smith read out statements in Newfoundland Supreme Court in Corner Brook.

Some of their descriptions of Smith’s actions were disturbingly graphic — and they will not, rest assured, be echoed here.

But the three men — the only ones among 13 victims who braved the stand — also described the effect his actions have had on their lives.

Smith was a parish priest in P.E.I. when police first launched an investigation into his conduct. But all of the charges related to his ministry in Newfoundland from 1969-1989. Thus, they roughly coincide with offences by Christian Brothers and other clergy that made headlines in the late 1980s.

“The impact is immeasurable and it doesn’t stop,” Crown attorney Trina Simms said Wednesday.

Western Star reporter Gary Kean recounted how one victim held up a crucifix Smith had given him some 35 years ago. The man said he has renounced his faith.

“The cross has proven to be too much to bear, so I will be returning this cross to George Smith, and let him bear the cross for a little while,” he said.

Justice William Goodridge will sentence Smith on March 14.

Smith was a Catholic priest, and therefore reinforces a common stereotype. But it’s important to emphasize these travesties are committed by authority figures in all walks of life.

Saint John, N.B., residents are in shock after revelations that one of their most popular councillors may be a longtime child molester and pornographer. As the National Post’s Christie Blatchford put it, Donnie Snook “appears to have constructed his entire life around his sexual appetite.”

Snook is a former Salvation Army officer who served in Mount Moriah in western Newfoundland in the early 1990s.

In Saint John, he is a respected community activist. He is executive director of a youth ministry, as well as a hot lunch program; he sends underprivileged youngsters to summer camps and runs swimming and hockey programs. On council, he was a constant advocate for children and youth.

And newly unsealed documents suggest he may have been a foster parent for years.

The sad truth is, predators need prey, which is why pedophiles often weasel their way into such positions of trust.

There is, however, one big difference between Snook and Smith. No one tried to cover Snook’s tracks and shuffle him off to another municipality. The very thought of it is absurd.

Yet, the same can’t be said for many Catholic clergy.

Organizations: Christian Brothers, National Post, Salvation Army

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Saint John, P.E.I. Mount Moriah

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