Last Updated: August 12, 2011 6:41pm
By RICA BAJER QMI Agency
CHATHAM – David Turrill’s life has been unsettled.
The 44-year-old Tilbury man has spent much of his adult life battling addiction and living on the streets.
“I laid in bed one night crying, and thinking ‘What is wrong with me?’ ” he recalled Friday at a news conference announcing that four civil lawsuits worth
$8 million have been filed against the Roman Catholic diocese of London.
He said after that night he saw a story in The Chatham Daily News about men molested as boys by a priest.
He knew it was time to tell about the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of the late Father Bernard Alphonse Robert, who was his parish priest at St. Francis Xavier parish in Tilbury.
Robert was parish priest there during the 1970s and 1980s.
According to a statement of claim filed by the London law firm Ledroit Beckett Litigation Lawyers, Robert sexually abused Turrill for five years starting when he was a 10-year-old altar boy.
“It eats at your soul, your spirit,” Turrill said, fighting tears. “Your innocence is stolen. That’s not supposed to happen to kids.”
He said he continues to go to church but doesn’t practise the Catholic faith.
“I don’t blame God,” he said.
Diocese spokesperson Mark Adkinson confirmed the organization received four claims from men alleging sexual misconduct by Robert.
He said the priest retired in 1993 and died in 1996 at the age of 72.
“We are sorry for all of the hurt victims have experienced. We are committed to living up to our responsibilities and obligations to victims of sexual misconduct in the search for justice and truth,” he said. “The victims who have come forward are making a difference and we thank them for doing so.”
The law firm alleges the diocese heard allegations about Robert in 1999 but Adkinson said he’s not aware of that.
“There’s an allegation that came forward in 2004,” he said, adding to his knowledge that’s the first time the diocese learned of allegations.
He said all victims of sexual misconduct by clergy are offered counselling by the diocese.
Turrill said for years he scoffed at the idea of getting professional help to deal with the abuse he endured. However, he said talking to a counsellor has helped him come to terms with the guilt and shame that ruined his life for so many years.
Tilbury resident Denis Robert, 45, isn’t related to the priest who he said abused him for more than three years, beginning when he was 10 years old.
He said St. Francis Xavier church was supposed to be a refuge. A place to commune with God. Instead, it robbed him of his innocence.
“They gain your trust, they tell you how good you are and then they rip your childhood away,” he said of pedophile priests. “Father Robert was a predator.”
Both men said they came forward to shed light on the issue of sexual abuse by clergy and to hold the diocese accountable.
“The shame is his, it’s not mine — not any longer,” Robert said.
Two other men, who don’t wish to be identified, have also filed lawsuits of alleged abuse.
Lawyer Aaron Lealess said a fifth man has now come forward.
“Father Robert had an unusually high compliment of altar boys,” he said.
“Tilbury was not Father Robert’s only assignment,” he noted, adding the law firm believes there are more victims out there.
Robert served at St. Mary’s in Blenheim from 1958-1969, at St. Matthew’s in Alvinston and Our Lady Help of Christians in Watford from 1969-1973, and Holy Family in Wallaceburg from 1989-1993.
Chatham Daily News
Lawsuit filed against Ontario diocese for alleged abuse by priest
12 August 2011
TILBURY, Ont. — Four area men are accusing a Roman Catholic priest of sexually abusing them in the Tilbury, Ont., area and are suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of London for $8-million.
The men allege that Father Bernard Alphonse Robert abused them during the 1970s, when they were altar boys at St. Francis Xavier Church in Tilbury.
One of the victims, David Turrill, 44, said during a news conference that the emotional damage from the alleged abuse has carried over into his adult life.
“I’ve been through so many jobs, drinking, dope, promiscuous behaviour, living on the streets,” he said. “It just affected everything in my life.”
Turrill also said that he spent much of his adult life wandering across the continent and attempted suicide on two occasions.
Robert, who died some time in the 1990s, also served as pastor in churches in Blenheim, Watford, Wallaceburg and Alvinston.