1 Dec 2010

Current wave of global Catholic scandals just tip of iceberg says Quebec advocate who predicts many more to come

Canwest News Service - April 10, 2010

Victims’ advocate predicts more church sex scandals in Canada

By Marianne White | Canwest News Service

QUEBEC — The wave of scandals battering the Roman Catholic Church is only the tip of the iceberg, claims a victims’ rights advocate in Quebec who has gathered more than 400 testimonies from men and women who say they, too, were abused by priests.

France Bedard, 62, who heads an organization that assists victims of sexually abusive priests, says many of them will break their silence in the coming months.

“More revelations will be made because many victims now have the strength to come forward,” Bedard said.

She said cases of abuse that have been exposed at the Notre Dame College in Montreal are encouraging male victims to speak out.

Last year, a Montreal Gazette investigation uncovered dozens of cases of abuse by the college’s clergy during the 1970s.

Bedard says she herself was raped and impregnated by a priest in the 1960s. She decided to press charges only in 2005 after the Quebec City Roman Catholic archdiocese refused to help her, saying the priest was denying being the father of her child.

A DNA test later proved Armand Therrien was indeed the father. He was charged with rape and gross indecency in 2006, but died before his trial.

Bedard has since filed a $325,000 lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Quebec and Therrien’s estate.

Since going public with her story, Bedard has become the confidante of hundreds of other victims in Quebec and some Atlantic provinces.

“I get calls every day from victims,” said Bedard, who runs the Association des victimes de pretres (www.victimesdepretres.org).

She is putting together a list of victims of sexual abuse by priests that has more than 400 names, and she said she’s not finished. There are priests or institutions that have dozens of victims, she said, while other cases are unique.

“I’m telling you, and I know what I’m talking about, colleges and boarding schools will soon be exposed because people are finding the courage to talk,” Bedard said, adding some of them have already been to the police to press charges.

She noted that two times more men than women have contacted her.

As allegations of coverup or failure to adequately deal with priests who molested or raped children in their charge surface in Ireland, Europe, the United States and Canada, Bedard says the Canadian Catholic Church and the Vatican should break the code of silence.

“What happened elsewhere in the world happened here as well. It was universal. The church’s first priority has always been to preserve the integrity of the institution and the reputation of pedophile priests. What was left for the victims? They were ignored, abandoned or outright dismissed as liars,” she said.

“It’s unacceptable. It’s a shame and now they have to face the music, they can’t run away because the evidence is mounting,” she said.

The primate of the church in Canada, Quebec City’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet, declined an interview to comment on the string of cases of sexual abuse battering the Catholic Church.

(With files from Montreal Gazette)

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