Roman Catholic diocese to pay sex abuse victims $1.5 million
By Linda Nguyen | Postmedia News
A Roman Catholic diocese in Ontario has quietly settled 10 sexual abuse lawsuits in the past month, paying out more than $1.5 million in connection to allegations dating back more than 50 years.
All of the settlements involve male victims who allege they were repeatedly molested by two priests from the Diocese of London at parishes across southwestern Ontario.
The victims, who are now in their 60s and 70s, launched individual lawsuits last year, said London, Ont.-based lawyer Robert Talach on Friday.
"The book never really truly closes, but this is definitely a big step toward closure for some of them," he said. "Some of the gentlemen I dealt with waited half a century before they really spoke this aloud to anyone else. Coming out after all those years, it just goes to the fact to show how traumatic it is, that you wouldn't breathe a word of it for five decades."
The settlements were quickly reached between Talach and diocese officials following two days of negotiations. They range from around $100,000 to $315,000.
The diocese said it was "pleased" to have reached the settlements, and urged others who are victims of historical sexual abuse to continue to come forward.
"We are committed to living up to our responsibilities and obligations to victims of sexual misconduct in the search for justice and truth," said Mark Adkinson, a spokesman with the Diocese of London in an email. "We are sorry for all of the hurt these and other victims have experienced. We continue to offer counselling to all victims of sexual misconduct by clergy."
Most of the cases involve Father Lawrence (Laurent) Paquette, a priest who died in 1986 before any of these allegations were officially brought forward.
The sexual abuse occurred at various parishes Paquette worked at since he was ordained in 1943, with the majority in Grande Pointe, a small francophone community near Windsor, Ont.
The victims allege the sexual abuse was repeated over a period as long as two years while some of the boys were as young as 11.
The abuse with the early victims started with fondling and escalated over the years to "everything but sodomy," said Talach. All of the abuse occurred inside a confessional booth, which Paquette would attend with each boy once a month.
"This was a staunch Catholic French community. These boys knew they couldn't call in sick for a confession," he said. "They were in these private booths, which were a perfect context for the abuse to be perpetuated for years."
Meanwhile, one of the other lawsuits involves Father Barry Glendinning and a sexual abuse claim on a boy who was then 15, in the mid-1960s in Windsor, Ont.
This isn't the first molestation claim brought forward against the priest.
In 1974, Glendinning was convicted in relation to six counts of sexual abuse but continued to work across southwestern Ontario.
In 2004, a lawsuit naming him and the diocese resulted in a $1.4-million judgment for three brothers who were victimized by the priest as boys.
Glendinning was defrocked in 2006 or 2007 and is believed to be living in Toronto.
Talach said the effects of the abuse still linger for many of his clients, many whom have kept the abuse and the litigation a secret, even to their own spouses.
"Many dealt with drug, alcohol abuse, attempted suicides, educational and vocational failings," he said. "A lot of them stood out like a sore thumb from the accomplishments of their siblings, so clearly they had been struggling lifelong from the effects of the abuse.
"The bottom line is that it's too little, too late, but it's better than nothing."
Talach is still dealing with at least 200 more lawsuits involving sexual abuse claims against Roman Catholic clergy from Nova Scotia to Saskatchewan. More than a dozen of them involve the Diocese of London.
Last month, Eric Dejaeger, 63, returned to Canada to face six abuse charges allegedly committed on boys at least 30 years ago while he was a Roman Catholic priest in what is now known as Nunavut. He had been living in Belgium for the last 15 years.
In May 2009, the church paid a $1.745-million settlement to a victim of former Windsor, Ont., priest Charles Sylvestre. He died in January 2007 while serving a sentence for sexual assault after 47 women came forward with allegations of sexual abuse.
It was believed to be largest payout in Canada by the Roman Catholic Church to a victim of clergy abuse.
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