By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News
(Note: An update to the original article is posted below)
[Ottawa – CCN] – Canada’s Jesuits are going to do what no other Catholic Church organization in the country has done before – release the names of “credibly accused” priests.
Victims of clergy abuse within the Catholic Church in Canada have been demanding full transparency within the Church including the names of those who have been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse.
Father Erik Oland, provincial of the Jesuits of Canada, said the Jesuits have hired an outside firm to investigate and review historic files going back up to 60 years that include the names of priests that have already been made public in either court cases and lawsuits and also those who have never been publicly named, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported on Dec. 17.
Oland, who is based in Montreal, is quoted as saying: “We’re really making a decision to be pro-active. We’re not waiting to be forced out from under cover. … The Jesuit order, the Catholic church … people with religious convictions are doing important work for our world, so we don’t want to keep carrying this yoke … over our shoulders.”
Jesuits of Canada director of communications Jose Sanchez confirmed with Canadian Catholic News that Oland spoke to the Globe and Mail in Toronto recently about what the Jesuits in Canada plan to do with its review of past abuse cases. Oland told the Globe and Mail that “a list of names and where the priests worked will be made public by January, 2021, or before.”
The increasing push for being as transparent as possible in identifying clergy and church workers who may have been involved in the abuse of minors in Canada has gained traction since more and more revelations about abuse in the Catholic Church have been released in the United States – specifically since a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania found priests abused more than 1,000 children over some 70 years was released in 2018.
What the Jesuits are planning to do in Canada is similar to what the Jesuits have done in the United States.
The issue of publicly naming those who are “credibly accused” of sexual abuse is a much-debated issue within the Catholic Church in Canada, and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has urged caution in making that decision, leaving it up to individual dioceses. So far, none have gone as far to name the “credibly accused.”
“Bishops recognize that while the current procedure offers very clear guidelines on their pastoral and civil responsibilities, there remains an important question to consider related to the publication of names of the ‘credibly accused’ who have not been charged and convicted,” a CCCB statement dated Nov. 15 said.
“It is evident that a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer cannot be given to such a complex matter when seen through the lens of privacy laws at the federal and provincial levels, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the well-being of victims-survivors, some of whom do not wish for the names of their offenders to be published for fear they themselves will be re-victimized or identified.
“Bishops are obliged to weigh all of these factors as they discern their individual responses to this question,” the CCCB statement said.
A first-of-its-kind publicly-released review of historic cases of sexual abuse within a Canadian Catholic Church diocese has been done in Vancouver, but the review made public on Nov. 22 only released the names of priests who have been criminally convicted or were named in already settled lawsuits. The Archdiocese of Vancouver public report does not name “credibly accused” priests, although the committee within the diocese that worked on the report recommended that the “credibly accused” be named as well.
And recently a clergy abuse survivor group released its own list of the “credibly accused” within the Diocese of London, ON.
In response the London Diocese basically confirmed what was released by the survivor group.
“As a diocese, we wish to express our utmost regret for the suffering that has been incurred as a result of clergy sexual abuse. As we review the list published by SNAP, we can confirm that it appears to be substantially correct,” a statement released by the Diocese of London said. “We cannot confirm its accuracy in its entirety. Certain cases, for instance, were resolved by the religious orders themselves. We can confirm, however, that there are four other priests against whom allegations involving minors have been made. None of the priests continues to work within the diocese or elsewhere in the Church,” the statement said.
UPDATE: Dec. 30, 2019
Abuse survivor says it’s ‘about time’ accused priests are named publicly
By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News
[Ottawa – CCN] – The decision by the Jesuits of Canada to release a list of priests “credibly accused” of abuse of minors is a step in the right direction, but a lot more has to be done within the Catholic Church in Canada for an honest accounting of the extent of child abuse within the Church, the president of an abuse survivor group says.
“It is about time that on order has taken that step,” said Brenda Brunelle, the president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) for Southwestern Ontario.
Brunelle, whose group released its own list of the “credibly accused” within the London, On., Catholic Diocese at the beginning of December, said transparency within the Catholic Church surrounding abuse of minors still lags far-behind what is being done in other countries such as the United States and Australia, and she hopes the Jesuits’ decision will prompt other Catholic religious orders and dioceses in Canada to be a lot more forthcoming with the public and the faithful in sharing what they know about abuse within the Church.
“I am hopeful that other orders will follow suit,” Brunelle said in a phone interview with the Canadian Catholic News. “I’m glad that this could be an important step to get this information out, but we are way behind the times with this here compared to what is being done elsewhere.”
In a statement released on Dec. 18, the Jesuits of Canada said that they have hired an outside firm, the King International Advisory Group, “to review all personnel and provincial files of Jesuits going back to 1950 in preparation of publicly releasing the names of all Jesuits of the province who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors.”
Father Erik Oland, provincial of the Jesuits of Canada, said the decision to compile and publicly release such a list has been an ongoing process within the order, and that releasing such a list “is the right thing” to do.
“We hear the voice of the victims of childhood sexual abuse in Canada. Lists that provide the public with information about these men are important to healing,” Father Oland said.
“It is the right thing for us to do in the promotion of institutional transparency and accountability, an important step to help correct the causes of the crisis,” he said. “On behalf of the Jesuits, I apologize to the victims for the deep pain caused by Jesuits in the past.”
According to a timeline of how the process of completing the review and then publicly naming the “credibly accused” will proceed supplied by the Jesuits of Canada, there will be no restrictions placed on the King International Advisory Group’s review and audit of Jesuit files. It is expected that the advisory group’s work will begin in earnest in January 2020. According to the Jesuits, they hope to have a list available to be published by January 2021.
“It is intended that our list will feature the names of historic offenders whether they were dead or living at the time that complaints were brought forward against them. Rather than employ legalistic tests such ‘on the preponderance of evidence’ the list will deal with allegations where it appears more likely than not that an offence occurred,” a statement from the Jesuits of Canada said. “Criteria that would be taken into consideration include cases where a Jesuit was accused by parishioners, civil authorities or other clergy, even if no charges or civil actions were ever forthcoming. It may also include plausible hearsay evidence that would not be considered in legal proceedings.”
According to the Jesuits, the list will include information about the postings of an accused Jesuit, what communities they were in and when.
“The information published will enable communities and superiors in different locations to determine whether or not an offender was ever in their area, and what ministry or institution they were associated with,” the Jesuits of Canada statement said. “The lists are a living document that will be updated as additional information is presented.”