For the sake of the children

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Here we go again. Two articles in the papers with Roman Catholic parishioners jumping to the defence of an accused priest: Standing behind ‘Father Gates’ and “Open season on priests?”

I can’t tell you how often this happens. It makes little difference if the “alleged” victim is identified or anonymous. The trigger reaction from a disturbing number of Roman Catholics is: Father would never do that.

I recall back in the early 90s when Father Ken Keeler, an Ottawa priest, was charged. The victims (plural) were first put through the mill by the local bishop (Marcel Gervais) and a group of parishioners at St. John the Apostle in Nepean.

It was my first experience with such a bizarre phenomenon. There was no thought that children just might be at risk. No thought that their priest was less than holy. No thought that it is best to err on the side of caution.

The victims are liars.

In this instance it is legally-correct to say victims. That was proven in court. Keeler went in with a not guilty. The victims were called. There was testimony about the goings on at St. Brigid’s Summer Camp in Quebec (a camp founded by Father Keeler, initially for needy children). We heard about drugs, booze, and, yes, sexual abuse. About Father Keeler molesting young boys, and Bishop Beehan (now deceased) after the little boys who were so scared they would barricade themselves into their dorms with their bunk beds, and of Father Keeler and the bishop having sexual trysts on the porch.

Keeler changed his plea. Guilty. Still, there were Roman Catholics who called the victims liars!

Then there was the case of Father Michael Mullins. He got off locally. More chatter about liars and poor Father. Mullins headed off to his homeland of Ireland to recuperate from his exoneration in court. While recuperating he made sexual advances to a young lad in Ireland. The lad rebuffed him. Mullins beat him up and did whatever. He was charged. Eight years in jail! Upon his return to Ottawa officials with the Archdiocese of Ottawa refused to divulge his whereabouts. He wasn’t going to be practising as a priest said they, … and he had a right to his privacy.

Still there were those Catholics who would not believe Father Mullins had done wrong.

There are countless such cases. All account for the bizarre, sad, and sorry saga of the “Catholic” response to allegations of clerical sexual abuse. Countless times those who rally to an accused priest’s defence have been proven wrong. The phenomenon continues

Would it not perhaps be prudent for Roman Catholics who know little or nothing of the story to reserve judgement until the facts are out? What do they suppose that response does to the countless victims who struggle to find the strength and courage to come forward?

As for Father Gaetan Deschamps, true there are no official criminal allegations against him. There are allegations of childhood sexual abuse. But what of Father’s past? Were there any sex abuse allegations against him while he was in Prince Albert? If yes, would that not go a long way to corroborating the man’s allegations?

Now that I think of it, should the diocese not be anxious to honestly and openly dispute or corroborate such allegations? Does the diocese not have an obligation to publicly disclose any and all prior sexual abuse or sexual assault allegations – anywhere – against a priest? I believe it absolutely does. Not just at times like this, but every time a new priest arrives in the diocese or shows up in the sanctuary. We Catholics surely have the right to a known degree of clerical sanctity and an authoritative assurance that “Father” has never reportedly laid a wayward hand on a single child.

Since that doesn’t happen we are left in the predicament we find ourselves in today with the allegations against Father Deschamps.

I for one say there are questions about Father’s past which, at a time like this, demand answers.

There’s the question of Southdown. What was Father Deschamps doing in Southdown?

And why was he, a former professor at St. Mary’s College in Prince Albert (Saskatchewan), suddenly functioning as a hospital chaplain in Prince Albert?

Fir that matter, why was Father Deschamps not permitted to officiate at a wedding in Cornwall?

I would venture to guess most parishioners know little or nothing of the above. I would also venture a guess that most haven’t given much thought to the plight of a victim torn between ensuring children are safe while simultaneously sparing his aging and devout mother the trauma of learning her son was sexually molested by a priest she admired and trusted.

At the end of the day it is – or should be – about the sanctity of the priesthood, the protection of children and the execution of justice. If the law of the land and/or “the Church” fall abysmally short on all counts, how is it to be done?

Naïve protests that Father couldn’t possibly do such a thing are just that, naïve. Clerical molesters don’t sport horns. To the contrary. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. All such protests do is affirm the fears of victims that no one will believe them anyway.

Perhaps the answer is transparency. Let the Dioceses of Prince Albert and Alexandria-Cornwall disclose. Fully disclose. If there were never any sex-related allegations against Father Gaetan Deschamps in the Diocese of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, let the people know. Ditto if there were. And if there were, let the masses know how much officials with the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall knew before they allowed Father Deschamps to minister to the unwitting Cornwall flock.

So that justice is done. So we Catholics can know who not to go to for confession and spiritual direction. But more, …for the sake of the children.

Enough for now,


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1 Response to For the sake of the children

  1. AbsentObserver says:

    I have a subscription to the Standard-Freeholder and I have wondered in the past many months why there aren’t more letters to the editor in regards to this inquiry? There are ample issues to be raised on both sides … where is the community voice on this? When it comes to the opinion the inquiry is a farce and a circus, where are the voices of those who support the work being done at the Weave Shed? And when it comes to the defending of priests, where are the voices of those who would claim where’s there’s smoke there’s fire? It seems to me as if the real crime here is the silence, on all sides, about issues that affect our daily lives. Where is everyone? It’s not hard to send an email or jot a few lines down on a piece of paper. At most it costs a few moments of your time and a stamp. Is the fate of public transit in Cornwall really the biggest issue? I read the paper and I visit the radio station’s website all the time. We have a commission hearing allegations and proven facts about decades of sexual abuse of children and we have a church announcing publicly one of its most trusted priests has been alleged to have perpetrated the very same sort of act. Why is it all I’m reading about is how important it is for the community to have reliable buses? Where are the priorities? Citizens of Cornwall, I urge you … use your voices! Don’t sit in silence and commiserate only among yourselves about the sad state of affairs in Cornwall. Speak up!

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