4 Nov 2010

Nova Scotia settlement in clergy abuse case a “tragic echo of the original tragedy”

The Cape Breton Post - Canada August 14, 2009

Author of fictional account of clergy’s abuse reacts to settlement

LAURA JEAN GRANT | The Cape Breton Post

SYDNEY — The Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal has revealed a character flaw within the leadership of the institution, says a Cape Breton author who has written a fictional book on the subject.

Earlier this summer, broadcast journalist Linden MacIntyre released his latest novel, The Bishop’s Man, which explores the story through the eyes of a priest who has spent most of his career as an enforcer employed by his bishop to discipline wayward priests and suppress potential scandal.

MacIntyre, who grew up in the Catholic faith, researched specific cases of sexual abuse in the church as well as the culture of the Catholic priesthood, and drew on knowledge gained in dealing with victims of abuse throughout his career, in writing the book.

He said he’s followed the sexual abuse involving clergy story since it became big news in the mid-90s, in parts of the United States and Newfoundland, in particular.

The story continued with a new chapter last week when the Catholic Church reached an historic settlement for survivors of sexual abuse that will cost the Diocese of Antigonish as much as $15 million.

A class action suit had been filed by Sydney resident Ronald Martin at the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia seeking compensation for himself and anyone else who had been sexually abused by priests in the diocese. If the terms and conditions of the proposed settlement are validated by the Supreme Court during a hearing in Halifax on Sept. 10-11, anyone claiming to be a victim of a priest in the diocese from Jan. 1, 1950 to the present may be able to reach a confidential agreement with the diocese.

“I think the powers that be have learned a very, very painful and expensive lesson,” said MacIntyre, in reacting to the settlement. “I want to think that this question of deviance and criminality in the clergy, at whatever level it occurs, will be handled differently in the future. I think there is a problem that the church is still unwilling to address some features of its own culture that might or might not have contributed to this. The two that jump to my mind are the whole question of celibacy and the question of the role of women in the church.”

MacIntyre, who found out about the class action suit last year just as his book was in the final stages of editing, described the settlement reached by the Diocese of Antigonish as a “tragic echo of the original tragedy.”

“A handful of priests created a mess. You have your primary victims who were directly affected by them and now you have secondary victims who will have to carry the burden of this huge financial obligation,” he said. “I know that parishes will have a hard time handling the costs.”

MacIntyre said the scale of the sexual abuse scandal — from Newfoundland to Boston to Cape Breton — puts the whole issue into perspective.

“You suddenly realize that the problem is not so much individuals betraying the trust of faithful people or innocent people. The problem is the way the institutions respond to these things. They have a tendency to protect the reputation or the image of the institution by covering things up.”

MacIntyre, co-host of the CBC program, Fifth Estate, and author of the award-winning Causeway: A Passage from Innocence, believes while there’s no role for fiction in journalism, good fiction can have the same impact as good journalism; and hopes The Bishop’s Man, gets people thinking about important questions.

“I think it would be a terrible mistake if people saw this as a critique of anything. If anything it is a critique of leadership decisions that were made but . . . I hope people don’t lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of priests are just decent, normal human beings in a very difficult job,” he said.

“At the end of the day it’s not about priests as such, it’s about anybody in a position of trust who betrays the trust. At the core, this is about betrayal of trust and it can involve a priest or a babysitter or an uncle or a cousin or a coach, and invariably does.”

This article was found at:


No comments:

Post a Comment