Can you for one moment conceive a Canadian Catholic priest who, in this day and age, professes to know nothing – I mean nothing – about grooming?
A priest who contributed to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishop’s 1992 sex abuse guidelines knows nothing about grooming?!!
So claimed Father Stephen Amesse 09 March 2017. Amesse had taken the stand the previous day to testify in his own defence at his sex abuse trial.
Under cross-examination Assistant Crown Farah Rupert raised the fact that Father Amesse had been a collaborator on the compilation of the CCCB’s sex abuse guidelines , From Pain to Hope .
As some may already know, this was before his ordination to the priesthood . In other words, he collaborated as a layman.
When asked about his participation in the compilation of the guidelines Amesse testified that he had become aware that “Frank” was putting together a team and that he, Amesse. called to congratulate him. Amesse quickly self-corrected to say Father Frank Morrissey, who, he then explained, had been one of his professors while he, Amesse, was in the seminary at Ottawa’s Saint Paul University. I believe this must have been reference to Father Amessse’s first time in the seminary? I say first time because, for reasons currently unknown, he ceased his pursuit of the priesthood, spent about ten years working for various Liberal MPs and a Liberal Senator on Parliament Hill, and then seems to have felt the call to the priesthood again. Indeed, during his examination in chief Father Amesse testified that while he was working on Parliament Hill he came to know two priests who were ‘ministering’ on the Hill, and who, he said, “nagged” him to become a priest. Whether called or nagged (which some might also consider a calling), in 1999 Father Amesse was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Ottawa.
We never did find out who those two nagging priests were. But, as far as the sex abuse guidelines go, we did learn that, according to his own testimony, the then Mr. Stephen Amesse was invited by Father Morrissey to participate in the compilation of the new guidelines, not really as a researcher or academic, but as a former seminarian.
Since every priest is in fact a former seminarian it is difficult to fathom what unique experience Amesse had which prompted Father Morrissey to determine that he, Amesse, had something special to offer the Ad Hoc Committee preparing the guidelines.
For those unfamiliar with Father Morrissey, he is an Ottawa-based Oblate priest who is the former and longtime dean of the St. Paul U. Faculty of Canon Law. Over the years Father Morrissey has offered canonical assistance to dioceses rocked by scandal. He believes and lectures that child molesters are not “moral degenerates,” that child molestation is akin to alcoholism which was once viewed as sinful and is now understood to be a disease, that sexual molestation isn’t grounds to defrock/laicize a priest, and when addressing the issue in the mid 90s, that it is not “responsible stewardship” to throw away what was then the $250,000 investment that goes into cost of ordaining a Catholic priest
Back to Amesse and the CCCB guidelines….
Why, pray tell, would Father Morrissey ask Stephen Amesse, a layman and ex seminarian to assist with the compilation of the Bishop’s sex abuse guidelines?
Is there a remotely possibility that it is related to Father Amesse’s dealings with a Father Claude Thibeau, the Cornwall Ontario priest who testified at the Cornwall Public Inquiry that he had been molested by Father Gilles Deslaurier? The Father Thibeau who disclosed that abuse to his friend Stephen Amesse while the pair were seminarian at St. Paul’s? I blogged on this back in 2007 when Father Thibeau testified. (Scroll down page. )
Perhaps? If so, what unique perspective could Amesse’s interactions have had to offer to the guidelines?
First, and of particular interest here is the fact that Father Thibeau testified that he almost worshiped Father Deslaurier and described his molester as “such a manipulator, such a liar.”
And, more to the point, this: Father Thibeau readily recognized and on several occasions made reference to the fact that he had been groomed by Deslaurier. Yes. He used and was obviously very familiar with the term “grooming.” In fact, in an open statement to the inquiry he said, in part: “Perpetrators are manipulative, choose victims, carefully groom them over, lie to them, develop trust and abuse that trust”
The strange thing here is that, as much as he was an unfortunate victim, Father Thibeau seemed to be on the same page as Father Morrissey: opposed to defrocking. He was also opposed to the one strike you’re out policy in the 2002 Dallas Charter (USA) whereby clerical molesters in the States are supposed to be “out” after the first conviction or credible allegation, with “out” meaning out of the priesthood. Father Thibeau also indicated that he favours suspension, not defrocking. He also espouses the theory that some molesters only molest only once, and therefore, well, they should be given another chance…
All interesting, – and disturbing, coming as it did from the mouth of a victim, and in this instance from the mouth of a victim who happens to be a Roman Catholic priest.
I go through all of this to get to the issue grooming? Well, yes. Where possible, as some of you know, I like to connect the dots. The above are just a few of the dots which I believe warrant connecting.
Back to Father Amesse and the matter of grooming….
The Crown essentially suggested that, given his work with the sex abuse guidelines, Father Amesse would have been familiar with the term grooming.
No. Not. According to Father Amesse, he was not.
Perhaps this is understandable? I don’t believe the word “grooming” was common lingo in the early 90s – at least not to specifically label the manipulative overtly kind and often long-term acts employed by so many molesters to gain the trust and affection of their prey – and often also of the victim’s family. I don’t personally recall its use back then, and I followed the unveiling of From Pain to Hope very closely. I do however recall that grooming techniques were recognized, and that there was an awareness of the process, but not that it bore the label “grooming.” I recall too that such behaviour was specifically identified as grooming a few years later. All that said, I believe there is no doubt that in this day and age most people are very aware of what the term grooming means, and that, as Father Thibeau did, we can look back and not only recognize but call certain behaviours exhibited by clerical molesters as grooming .
Why Father Amesse was unable to do so is a puzzle, particularly after having once been a confidant to a fellow seminarian who was cunningly groomed by his molester.
Anyway, when the Crown suggested to Father Amesse that his behavlour with Robert was typical of grooming, and proceeded to list those things which she suggested were indicative of grooming, Amessee interrupted the Crown mid sentence: “May I tell you something about Montreal..? ”
The Crown carried on. Ms. Rupert made reference to the cards, and the money in the cards, and the restaurants, and the gift of the book on Rome, and the gift of the body shaver – all examples of grooming to, as she said , exploit Robert, and to make the boy feel special and loved. A visibly and audibly flustered Amesse responded to the Crown’s various comments, saying at one point that he didn’t consider that the book on Rome was a gift, and at another point, in response to the suggestion that he exploited Robert to make him feel special and loved, that Robert wasn’t feeling special and loved elsewhere.
When Ms. Rupert suggested that he singled Robert out Fathert Amessee replied:”I wouldn’t say that I singled him out.” (On another occasion he testified that: “I tried to reach out to a young man that I thought was troubled.”)
Eventually Father Amesse was given opportunity to share with the court his experience in Montreal.
He was Robert’s age, he said, and he came from a background similar to but not as bad as Robert’s. He met a Franciscan priest. The priest was kind to him. He wanted to carry forwards that experience.
That was it.
When the Crown suggested that at the end of his experience with the Francisan priest he was not suicidal he was not happy!
Finally, for the purpose of this post, when the Crown asked Father Amesse if he knows what grooming is now, the answer was in the negative.
He doesn’t know what grooming is! In this day and age, a priest who doesn’t know what grooming is. Where or where has he been?
I will carry on with other parts of the testimony. I do want to cover several other areas of testimony, specifically the issue of moles, and “Eric,” and alcohol, and the kissing on the lips.
Enough for now,