LETTER: Unfair use of property collected by Catholic parishioners in NL to compensate victims of sexual abuse: priest

Saint Augustine once said in his Easter sermon, 227: “If we receive the Eucharist worthily, we become what we receive. If the Eucharist encompasses all the virtues of justice, compassion, attention to the oppressed, and the commandments of love of God and love of neighbour, the commandments that Jesus himself taught to his disciples.

Today, the clamor for justice at the parish level—the clamor of the parishioners themselves who make up the church congregation—falls on deaf ears.

This outcry is tied to protecting their interests as parishioners, as the very people who helped gather church properties that include buildings for worship and related religious activities. It also includes family aid intended to help parishioners and all other people in need.

These church assets are now for sale. Some parishes have been closed, depriving parishioners of the opportunity to practice their faith and be with members of their faith community.

The proceeds from the sale of these goods are intended to pay the claims of victims of sexual abuse, an act that has nothing to do with the parishioners. Today, the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John’s or RCECSJ faces cases of sexual abuse that occurred at the Mount Cashel Orphanage from the 1940s through the 1960s. Parishioners, priests and employees of the Parishes across the archdiocese are being hit as a result of court rulings over how these assets should be disposed of in order to pay the victims.

There are psychosocial, physical, moral and spiritual costs that must be considered even as we listen to the cries of victims of sexual abuse. There is the initial exodus of believers. The big question is, why do parishioners and parishes have to pay claims by disposing of the assets of churches that helped build? Why should they be at the reception when they had no direct connection to this sexual abuse?


Why do parishioners and parishes have to pay claims by disposing of the assets of churches that helped build? Why should they be at the reception when they had no direct connection to this sexual abuse?


When the Archdiocese filed for creditor protection under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act on Dec. 20, 2021, parishioners were told that “this is a legal matter and there is nothing they can do. do it”. Additionally, they were told, “Parishes that are not financially viable and self-sufficient must be closed.”

The Archdiocese, with the help of the trustee, consolidated parish funds totaling $1.01 million and used a portion of those funds as operating capital to keep parishes operating for 45 days, although the trustee’s third report indicates that these funds were raised and donated by parishioners at the parish level.

Parishioners recognize that the Archdiocese and its trustees are working to repay these claims from victims of sexual abuse. This is a good course of action. But using parish property that the parishioners themselves helped to build should not be used to pay the victims. The parishioners did not commit sexual abuse; others perpetrated it, they did not.

On that note, we must ask a difficult but important question: “Can parishioners claim those assets they have helped gather to further the building of a community of faith that believes in the justice of the Eucharist?” At the heart of the Eucharist, we must remember, is justice itself.

Prof. Nelson Boren,
St. Lawrence, Burin Peninsula

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