Roman Catholic diocese holding a series of meetings
CBC News P
osted: Nov 26, 2013 6:53 AM AT Last Updated: Nov 26, 2013 6:53 AM AT
A Roman Catholic diocese in Nova Scotia is trying to connect with people who may have been abused by clergy, or otherwise hurt by the church.
The Diocese of Antigonish is holding a series of meetings, beginning Tuesday night, in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal.
Three years ago, the diocese reached a landmark settlement with victims of sexual abuse by priests.
Soon after that settlement was announced, then-bishop Raymond Lahey was charged with possessing and importing child pornography. He was later convicted, sentenced to time served, and defrocked by the Holy See in Rome.
Bishop Brian Dunn said these public meetings will try to address the anger and hurt that’s still out there.
“Especially with those who have been abused by clergy, but also to reconcile with any people who has been hurt by the church in any way. So it’s kind of a more broader than the sexual abuse, people who’ve been hurt maybe because of the way that the church responded in terms of the sexual abuse issue,” he said.
Dunn said these meetings are in preparation for a major service of reconciliation next June.
Antigonish continues sex abuse reconciliation
The Catholic Register
Sunday, 24 November 2013 08:00
Written by Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News
Bishop Brian Dunn
OTTAWA – Nova Scotia’s Antigonish diocese plans a series of public encounters to reach out to sexual abuse victims and those hurt by a former bishop’s child porn conviction.
“As a diocese, we want to express solidarity with those who are hurting and make an effort to accompany all who are hurt or who are disconnected with the Church,” said a Nov. 29 news release.
“To those who have found it necessary to absent themselves from our faith communities, we will continue to try to regain your trust and remind you of how much we miss your presence.”
The meetings follow the multi-million dollar class-action sexual-abuse lawsuit settlement announced by then-Bishop Raymond Lahey in August 2009. About a month later Lahey was found with child pornography on his computer at Ottawa’s airport. He was charged and subsequently pleaded guilty to importation of child pornography.
“This is about providing an opportunity for the victims of abuse to have their voices heard,” said diocesan spokesman Fr. Donald MacGillivray in an interview from Antigonish. The deanery meetings will be a preparation for a service of reconciliation planned for Pentecost, he said.
“As a result of hearing their voice, it helps us to appreciate the pain and the suffering they have endured.”
Antigonish Bishop Brian Dunn will attend all the meetings, MacGillivray said.
“Since he’s come here, he has really worked hard to try to move this whole process along, to be faithful to this particular aspect of the class-action lawsuit,” he said. “He’s provided very good leadership on where we are in the history of this particular diocese.”
The meetings in the seven county-wide deaneries start Nov.26 in Stellarton and end in North Sydney on Dec. 11. The meetings are part of a three-year effort on the part of diocesan faithful “to restore confidence of its members in practicing and re-engaging the faith,” said the press release.
On top of the painful divestment of properties and parish savings accounts to meet a $16 million settlement to dozens of victims of several priests dating back 60 years, the charges against Lahey “really broke the back of some people,” said MacGillivray. “It was really just too much.”
“Some people have dealt with it and are ready to move on; others have not,” he said.
Lahey pleaded guilty in May 2011 and opted to go to jail prior to his sentencing hearing in Jan. 2012, when the judge sentenced him to 15 months but granted him two-for-one for time served and released him after eight months. The Holy See removed Lahey from the clerical state later that year.
The diocese has made the last payment required by the courts to meet the $13 million pay-out to victims and the additional $3 million in administrative costs for those victims not part of the class action lawsuit.
But the diocese continues to sell properties to repay the loan the diocese took out to pay the settlement.
“We are a community,” said MacGillivray. “This class-action lawsuit is the just thing to do. It’s the Gospel thing to do. It’s also fair to say that people don’t always have an appreciation that it’s a fair thing to them.”
The diocese has enough property it can sell to pay off the loan, but selling property is a slow process, he said. “No church has been sold; no rectory or glebe house or parish hall.”
Parish funds, however, have been taken and extra land not being used for core parish activities is up for sale, he said. About 150 properties have been put up for sale, and 100 parishes have contributed their savings.
The diocese recently held a renewal congress to come up with a five-year plan that MacGillivray said was led by the faithful of the diocese with a great deal of grassroots consultation.
“I think I’m always pleasantly surprised by the dedication of people,” he said. “It’s been very difficult here with the class-action lawsuit, the selling of properties and the Bishop Lahey stuff.”
“Sometimes I am amazed at how people hang in and stick with it.”
Diocese reaches out to victims of sex abuse
The Halifax Chronicle News
The Diocese of Antigonish wants to extend a healing hand to its parishioners.
Seven gatherings have been scheduled to talk about the past wrongs committed by the church and to search for productive ways to move forward.
“What these sessions are about is trying to hear what it’s been like to have been hurt by the church,” said Father Donald MacGillivray, a diocesan spokesman who now works out of St. Ninian’s Cathedral in Antigonish. “More specifically, how it’s been to have been hurt by a priest because of sexual abuse. That’s our starting point.
“It’s also about some kind of reconciliation, or at the very least, we’ll contemplate how we can move on from this. With anything in life, it’s not that we don’t make mistakes. People make mistakes, institutions make mistakes and I’m not saying this to try to downplay the difficult stuff that’s come from this mistake. The reality is that there’s been a wrong here. There’s been a mistake. It’s about for us to try to move on. For the people who have been hurt to move on and, as an institution to move on from this.”
The gatherings will allow individuals to speak and provide for group discussions.
“The process here is to try to listen to one another, to listen to those who have been grievously hurt by this and to try to move toward reconciliation. This is a complicated thing. It won’t happen in one step and it’s not as if it hasn’t been happening up until now. It’s an attempt to move this whole process to another place.”
That travelling conciliation forum will stop in Stellarton on Monday, Antigonish on Nov. 26, Lower River Inhabitants on Nov. 27, Mabou on Nov. 28, Glace Bay on Dec. 9, Sydney River on Dec. 10 and North Sydney on Dec. 11. All meetings are set for 7 p.m.
Aside from the people who have suffered the insidious clerical abuse, many others churchgoers and lapsed parishioners feel disillusioned.
“It’s about those who feel betrayed, felt that the church has not acted well or done the things that it should have done,” MacGillivray said. “ It’s about providing space for people to talk about that also.
“The mistakes have been made. The question is what do we do now. This is an attempt to create a forum where there can be some honest dialogue and the church saying, ‘well, we messed up here. We done wrong. What else can we do other than to say we’re sorry.”
The mistakes made were costly. Last year, the diocese satisfied its legal obligations to pay out $15 million to victims of sexual abuse at the hands of its priests over the last 50 years. Raymond Lahey, the former bishop of the diocese, helped broker that settlement in August 2009, just weeks before he was charged with importing child pornography into Canada. He was later convicted and sentenced to time served.
To pay off the settlement, the diocese had to sell a large number of its properties and liquidate the bank accounts of many of its churches. As well, it borrowed $6.5 million from private lenders to make the payout.
Marcellin Chiasson, a 67-year-old parishioner at St. Joseph’s in Port Hawkesbury, said the seven gatherings sound like a good idea, although most parishioners in his area are preoccupied with potential church closings. The diocese kicked off a review process in the summer to decide which of its 62 churches it can afford to operate in Richmond, Inverness, Antionish, Guysborough and Pictou counties.
After a similar review in Cape Breton and Victoria counties, the diocese decided to close 16 of 43 churches there.
“There should be the opportunity for the people who have been in those (sexual abuse) situation to express their opinions,” Chiasson said. “I’m not sure that they’ve had that opportunity in the past. My involvement would be more or less in the closure of the churches. That may fall under the same category. One of the reasons they are having to close the churches is a lot of people have quit going to church, for many reasons, one of the big ones being the sexual abuse situation and the way that it was dealt with. A lot of people didn’t get an opportunity to express their frustrations, their anger and so if that’s the thing, I think it would be good that they have that opportunity.”