UPDATE – Charges were stayed against Fr. Anthony Atter on June 6, 2022 – Update letter from Bishop Hagemoen
By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon learned Dec. 16, 2020 that Humboldt RCMP have laid charges against a priest serving in the diocese, Fr. Anthony Atter, who had been serving as pastor of parishes at Lake Lenore, Annaheim and St. Gregor. The police charges relate to sexual abuse of a minor.
As soon as the diocese learned of these charges, Fr. Anthony Atter was removed from ministry, in accordance with diocesan policy.
The diocese will be cooperating fully with police on this matter, and is unable to respond to questions and comments on the case at this time, while it is under investigation and/or before the courts.
“I am sure like all of you, my heart sank upon hearing of another accusation of abuse by one of our priests. This despite all the work and the great steps we have taken over the last while to create safer church communities and eliminate all forms and threats of abuse,” said Bishop Mark Hagemoen in a message to the diocese Dec. 17.
“I realize that each time the terrible crime of sex abuse is reported, victims and their families are wounded again, the vast majority of faithful priests bow their heads in shame, and sincere Catholics, Christians and people of good will, experience shock, sorrow, anger and righteous indignation.
“I wish very much that I could say to you that because of our efforts there will be no more accusations. However, what I can and will say strongly is — as your bishop, I join with the many lay women and men who have contributed hard work and much time to developing our safeguarding action plan to continue our efforts at eliminating all forms of abuse!
“I also commit to honouring complainants, victims and their families, the accused, and in this case the parishes of the communities of Lake Lenore, Annahiem, and St. Gregor – as well as all of our clergy and lay faithful throughout our diocese and beyond – to not jump to conclusions and allow our legitimate frustration and anger to overwhelm the commitment to respect and support the investigative processes of the police and our own diocese to determine guilt or innocence, and the proper response.”
Bishop Hagemoen concluded: “This current allegation of another case of abuse involving one of our families is an occasion to again affirm our commitment to respond to all those who have been victimized and hurt by any person acting in the name of the Church. The Diocese of Saskatoon stands in solidarity with any and all victims and commits to being an instrument of reconciliation and healing. It also commits to building safer churches and stronger communities: the theme of our safeguarding action plan. I join with all our diocese in sharing both pain and strong resolution.”
Policies and commitments regarding safeguarding – including sexual abuse – can be found on the diocesan website at https://rcdos.ca/our-diocese/safe-environment/safer-church/
Safeguarding Action Plan
As part of an ongoing commitment to safeguarding children, youth and the vulnerable in its churches, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon has published a Safer Church, Stronger Communities safeguarding action plan featuring 20 commitments aimed at preventing and responding to abuse by clergy or others in the church.
Download the Safer Churches, Stronger Communities safeguarding action plan: PDF
Reporting abuse: Contact information
The four-page Safer Churches, Stronger Communities action plan reflects the recent work of a diocesan Safeguarding Committee (consisting of eight lay Catholics and one diocesan priest), chaired by Brenda FitzGerald.
The Safeguarding Committee was established by Saskatoon Bishop Mark Hagemoen to review and update the diocese’s long-standing policies related to safeguarding and abuse.
As part of its work, the diocesan Safeguarding Committee has reviewed and updated diocesan policies for ensuring safe church environments, focused on increasing awareness about the impact of sexual abuse on survivors, and clearly outlined steps for handling allegations of serious misconduct — including sexual abuse – by clergy or others working in the church.