Sometimes I hang my head in shame

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There are many times in these troubled days when as a Roman Catholic I just want to hang my head in shame.

I encountered several such moments watching Bishop Paul Andre Durocher testify and reading the transcripts of his testimony.

Some of the moments were prompted by Durocher himself, others by documents which were entered into evidence.

I will touch on two:

The Morrissey/King documents

It seems that back in 1986/1987/1988 Father Frank Morrissey was busily helping the world to interpret the new Code of Canon Law. To that end it is known that he had been invited by someone or other to address a group of clergy in the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall, and that he was working on a draft presentation for the bishops of Canada.

Jeffrey King, a late vocation to the priesthood (age 58 when ordained) but then still very much an Ottawa lawyer, apparently lent a hand in some fashion and provided legal input from a secular perspective.

An area of great concern to the pair seemed to be that of ensuring that bishops could not be legally compelled to disclose any statements made by suspect clerical sexual predators in the presence of the bishop.

As I see it, the object of the exercise was to circumvent the law of the land in such a fashion that a bishop could legally withhold information which could see an alleged clerical molester convicted in a court of law. Why else resort to such convoluted measures?

The following paragraphs then are excerpts of a Jeffrey King document which were read into the record during the examination of Bishop Durocher:

“…in my opinion it is essential that there be a thorough understanding by the Bishops of the laws of privileged evidence in our courts.

“Evidence that is created either verbally, visually or by way of written record that is communicated to a lawyer in anticipation of litigation is privileged information. There is no law in Canada that will compel disclosure of such evidence. It is therefore essential that a situation be created whereby no Bishop or diocesan authority could be compelled to appear in court to give evidence of any statement given either verbally or in writing relating to a denunciation.”

“Under the laws in effect in each Province in Canada no one can any longer expect that there is any privileged information within the church and this would include what is called Secret Archives of any diocese. I suggest that paragraph 3 replace paragraph 2 in that the diocese should provide the accused cleric immediately with a trial lawyer who is distinct from the diocese’s attorney.”

“Any evidence obtained by way of a statement from the accused could not then be compelled as evidence in any court of law.”

“By having the lawyers attend such a meeting the laws of evidence would then apply and the information obtained could then be considered privileged information. At all times the diocesan lawyer should be made a member of such an inquiry in order that the information would remain privileged.”

How terribly disgusting! That Roman Catholic canon lawyers and lawyers would stoop so low to protect clerical sexual predators or whatever is beyond comprehension.

I must add that Jacques Leduc was a lawyer for the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall and in that capacity would have sat in on these sessions.

So, can you see how insane this gets when it comes to Cornwall? Just think of it: an alleged paedophile bishop conducting a session with an alleged paedophile priest in the presence of an alleged paedophile lawyer/canon lawyer, the latter presumably sitting in to ensure any damning utterances from the priest would remain privileged, and a known homosexual paedophile trial lawyer distinct from the alleged paedophile diocesan lawyer retained by the diocese for the alleged clerical molester.

What a lark! And this inquiry is mandated to conduct a research project on the response of , public institutions to allegations of historical abuse? What, oh what can I say?

Before moving on I also must add that in 1983 Father Frank Morrissey and Justice Colin McKinnon were founding members of the Ottawa St. Thomas More Lawyers Guild. What that boils down to I have no idea, but certainly the pair know each other. And I must acknowledge that I can’t help but wonder if, for example, McKinnon ever offered his legal expertise in the above matter to Morrissey and King? It’s not beyond the realm of possibility is it?

But this inquiry isn’t mandated to inquire into the role played by the judiciary in the Cornwall scandal so I suppose we may never know?

Two final bits of trivia on Father Jeffrey King: Back in the 90’s, while he was yet a lawyer and before he felt called to the priesthood Jeffrey King, met regularly with the Apostolic Nuncio at the Nuncio’s palace in Rockliffe Park. And King was – perhaps still is? – a staunch Liberal.

And what that all boils down to I have no idea, but it’s all rather interesting isn’t it how different paths sometimes seem to converge?

Bishop Durocher testified that there is no Secret Archives in the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall.

Did you notice the reference in the above King quotes to the Secret Archives?

Well, Bishop Durocher flatly denies the existence of any such archives in the Diocese of Alexndria-Cornwall:

“If there were secret archives, I am the one that would have access to them. There are no secret archives in the Diocese of Alexandria- Cornwall.”

“I’m not aware of how things were structured in the past in that regard, but I know that there are presently no secret archives in the Diocese.”

“I must admit it’s an area in which I am not a specialist. As I told you, there are no Secret Archives in the Diocese . . . . I’ve had no opportunity to study the issue.”

BUT, on the other hand, Durocher believes that Larocque’s practise was “if he found material was particularly touchy, he would put it in say a priest’s file within an envelope noting that this is only to be opened by the bishop. So that would be, I guess, the equivalent to secret archives,you know.”

Can you believe it? An envelope marked ‘for the bishops’ eyes only’ popped in with all the other files? That’s it?

Now here’s what the Code of Canon Law says about archives and Secret Archives:

486 – §1. All documents which regard the diocese or parishes must be protected with the greatest care.

§2. In every curia there is to be erected in a safe place a diocesan archive, or record storage area, in which instruments and written documents which pertain to the spiritual and temporal affairs of the diocese are to be safeguarded after being properly filed and diligently secured.

§3. An inventory, or catalogue, of the documents which are contained in the archive is to be kept with a brief synopsis of each written document.

487 – §1. The archive must be locked and only the bishop and chancellor are to have its key. No one is permitted to enter except with the permission either of the bishop or of both the moderator of the curia and the chancellor.

§2. Interested parties have the right to obtain personally or through a proxy an authentic written copy or photocopy of documents which by their nature are public and which pertain to their personal status.

488 – It is not permitted to remove documents from the archive except for a brief time only and with the consent either of the bishop or of both the moderator of the curia and the chancellor.

489 – §1. In the diocesan curia there is also to be a secret archive, or at least in the common archive there is to be a safe or cabinet, completely closed and locked, which cannot be removed; in it documents to be kept secret are to be protected most securely.

§2. Each year documents of criminal cases in matters of morals, in which the accused parties have died or ten years have elapsed from the condemnatory sentence, are to be destroyed. A brief summary of what occurred along with the text of the definitive sentence is to be retained.

490 – §1. Only the bishop is to have the key to the secret archive.

§2. When a see is vacant, the secret archive or safe is not to be opened except in a case of true necessity by the diocesan administrator himself.

§3. Documents are not to be removed from the secret archive or safe.

So what’s going on in Cornwall? Is Bishop Durocher violating the law of his Church? Does the diocese truly not have a Secret Archives? And if not, why not? Or, have great minds managed to somehow obey the letter of Church law in such a fashion that they can circumvent disclosure obligations by denying the existence of a Secret Archive?

I don’t know what’s going on here, but I would venture to guess that a document filed in an envelope marked ‘for the bishops’ eyes only’ or ‘to be opened by the bishop’ is neither “secret” nor “secure.”

I would also venture to guess the diocesan wagons are being well circled to account for the 1993 diocesan settlement containing the illegal gag order which was presumably simply filed – sight unseen – in a manila envelope.

So, yes, I sometimes hang my head in shame. This is what people see and know of the Roman Catholic Church.

And that truly is enough for now,

This entry was posted in Alexandria-Cornwall Diocese, Bishops, Circling the wagons, Clerical sexual predators, Cornwall and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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