8 Nov 2010

Nova Scotia Bishop resigns two months after historic clergy abuse settlement

Canoe News - Canada September 27, 2009

Bishop resigns after sex abuse lawsuit

by The Canadian Press

ANTIGONISH, N.S. - The bishop of a Roman Catholic diocese in Nova Scotia has resigned less than two months after the diocese reached a $13-million settlement with alleged victims of sexual abuse.

Bishop Raymond Lahey, named to the position in 2003 by Pope John Paul II, is a Newfoundland native who once served as a professor of theology at Memorial University in St. John's.

Ronald Martin, whose brother wrote a suicide note in 2002 that led to charges of sex crimes against a priest from the diocese, filed a class-action lawsuit last year against the organization.

In the suit, Martin claimed that the diocese failed to protect children in its care when it became aware of the alleged abuse.

On Sunday, the diocese announced that Anthony Mancini, the Archbishop of Halifax, had been appointed as the apostolic administrator of the diocese.

Mancini issued a statement saying Rev. Paul Abbass of St. Mary's Parish in Cape Breton is now the spokesman for the diocese.

Abbass said the appointments mean the diocese can continue its work without interruption.

"This transition in spiritual leadership comes at a time of significant pastoral challenges," Abbass said.

The settlement of the lawsuit remains "very much in the public eye and in the hearts and minds of all our parishioners," he added.

"I want to assure everyone, and particularly the victims of sexual abuse, that nothing in the recent, court-approved class action settlement agreement will change as a consequence of this transition in leadership."

The settlement is aimed at compensating anyone who was allegedly and known to have been sexually assaulted by a priest of the Catholic Episcopal Corp. of Antigonish since Jan. 1, 1950.

Last month, Lahey said the agreement was the first step in recognizing the alleged abuse of children as young as eight years old.

John McKiggan, Martin's lawyer, has said he has already heard from more than two dozen people who claim they were sexually assaulted by priests in the parish in the '50s and '60s.

Police began looking into the case after they reviewed allegations in David Martin's suicide note.

Hugh Vincent MacDonald, the former priest who was alleged to have assaulted the Martin brothers, eventually faced charges including rape and indecent assault involving 18 children between the ages of eight and 15.

MacDonald, who served in various parishes in Pictou, Guysborough and Antigonish, was facing 27 charges when he died in 2004.

The class action claims MacDonald and four other priests were sexually assaulting children in their care between 1960 and 2008. Several have already been convicted of multiple counts of sexual abuse.

Ron Martin claimed that MacDonald began abusing him when he was 13 and that it continued for about two years.

Abbass said the settlement agreement is more than a legally binding document.

"It is a call to justice and reconciliation," he said in a statement Sunday.

"It involves painful spiritual healing, profound understanding from all, and difficult financial sacrifices. While the resignation of our former bishop will be a loss to our diocese in many ways, his departure does not diminish the legal and spiritual commitments we have made."

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