Basilica among St. John’s Roman Catholic properties assessed to resolve abuse complaints


In a new statement on the compensation process involving the Mount Cashel boys’ orphanage in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John’s says he is now aware of 130 complaints from victims of sexual abuse, but that this will not be a definitive figure.

The church has been held vicariously responsible for the sexual abuse of this era by some members of the Christian Brothers.

“There may be more victim claims to come and so we don’t currently know what the number or final value of those claims will be. This is major information that we will need before we can effectively determine how to resolve all claims, ”Archbishop Peter Hundt said in the statement which was read at the weekend masses.

Hundt said the process is “complex, sensitive and not without significant challenges.”

Bishop Peter Hundt of the Diocese of St. John’s. – Soft beard

St. John’s attorney Geoff Budden said on Sunday that number could include other cases of clergy sexual abuse in addition to cases from the early Mount Cashel era.

The Archdiocese is analyzing its assets and their value, and some properties have already been put up for sale. This process will not be completed until early 2022.

The church’s most renowned property – the Basilica – is among the buildings and properties under review for “value and sustainability”.

The Archdiocese is also meeting with the clergy and the laity to determine its future – “how best to ensure the continued practice and celebration of our Catholic faith,” Hundt said in his statement.

“It may still be some time before we are in a position to make final and final decisions. In the meantime, we are closely monitoring the operating finances of the Archdiocese and parishes, as well as our ability to fully continue our activities while continuing this process. “

Budden praised the church for the franchise.

The basilica is of historical importance, but it is a precious possession belonging to an organization which owes a large sum of money.

“I think what he’s really saying is that everything is potentially on the table as part of this restructuring,” Budden said. “While I think no one expects the basilica to be granted, it is perhaps important for the Catholic community to realize the extent of the changes that must be considered if they are to fulfill their obligations.”

That the process continues until early next year is not alarming, he said, adding that there is good communication between victims’ lawyers and the church.

Geoff Budden - Keith Gosse / The Telegram
Geoff Budden – Keith Gosse / The Telegram

However, time is running out for a group of elderly victims, many of whom are in their 80s.

“Our responsibility as counsel for survivors is to move this case forward as quickly as possible,” Budden said.

“Everyone has to keep in mind how long this battle has gone on and that our clients are not young men… We have to discipline the process so that we are not there for years and years. There has been too much of it. This needs to be resolved for everyone’s sake, but the survivors are truly on the front lines. “

Peter Whittle, former chairman of the basilica’s heritage committee and a parish volunteer over the years, said hearing him say en masse that the national heritage site and the property surrounding it are apparently on the table was a very sad day for the Catholics of the province. .

However, he described Hundt as a pragmatic realist.

“I think a lot of people may not have realized the gravity of the situation the church is facing. … I was not surprised to see (the Basilica) speaking today from the altar. A lot of people are bothered…. I’m sure the bishop wouldn’t make an announcement like this unless the situation was dire and he had to prepare Catholics in St. John’s, ”said Whittle.

Whittle has acknowledged that the basilica site is possibly the church’s most valuable property and he hopes something can be done to preserve it, possibly non-religious involvement of the government or organizations seeking to preserve its historical and architectural significance.

“It’s really hard to imagine that the church has come to this point,” said Whittle.

As to whether the congregation can come together and raise money to buy back properties, he said parishioners have already raised large funds for improvements and repairs and with the numbers dwindling many people have stopped. to donate to church, especially with the scandals of the 80s and 90s.

“I know one thing for sure: Catholics are tired, they are tired. They are disappointed and now is not a good time to look for more money, especially to cover the mistakes that have been made within the church, ”said Whittle.

The church must obey the law, he said.

“People have been injured and they deserve compensation. “

He said every parish in the archdiocese is affected by the restructuring.

“In the small communities of the Avalon Peninsula and the Burin Peninsula these conversations are taking place – are we going to have a church? Are we going to have a priest? What is the future of the church? It’s very demoralizing, ”said Whittle.

“When you hear an ad like this today or a reference to it, it makes it clear that nothing is sacred and forbidden when it comes to paying the bills that are due (because of) what the members or the people of the church caused, whether it was sixty or twenty years ago.

“There is simply no benefit to it.”

A January decision by the Supreme Court of Canada ended a battle – for former residents who are now elderly men – over 20 years old led by Budden. Ottawa lawyer Eugene Meehan argued the victims’ case before the Supreme Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In 2018, in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, trial judge Alphonsus Faour ruled that the Archdiocese could not be held vicariously responsible for the conduct of Christian brethren. The Court of Appeal concluded that the judge of first instance had erred in law on this point and that both the relationship between the archdiocese and the Brothers was sufficiently close to justify declaring the archdiocese vicariously responsible. and that he should pay damages to the victims.

The Mount Cashel sex abuse scandal is most often associated with the abuse of boys from another era – the 1970s and 1980s – the revelation of which sparked the 1989-90 Hughes Inquiry. This era was not part of this civil case, and the boys of previous decades were not part of the compensation from the provincial government when it settled a block of cases from the 70s and 80s more than 20 years ago. .

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