Ex-resident defends priest as caring, professional

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The Halifax Chronicle Herald

February 18, 2012 – 4:32am

By AARON BESWICK Truro Bureau

Greg Carter, a former resident and former worker with Talbot House in Frenchvale, Cape Breton, is a defender of Rev. Paul Abbass.  (ERIC WYNNE / Staff) Greg Carter, a former resident and former worker with Talbot House in Frenchvale, Cape Breton, is a defender of Rev. Paul Abbass. (ERIC WYNNE / Staff)

A former resident of Talbot House is asking the public to not pass judgment before knowing the facts of the complaint against Rev. Paul Abbass.

Greg Carter says that he saw no signs of inappropriate conduct by the Roman Catholic priest during his 18-month stay between late 2001 and 2003 at the recovery home for male drug addicts.

Abbass took a leave from his post as executive director of Talbot House on Feb. 3 and has been relieved of his duties with the Diocese of Antigonish after at least one complaint was filed with the Community Services Department.

“I worked there after my stay and kept in contact for three years afterward and had a fairly close relationship with Father Abbass,” said Carter in a phone interview from his Dartmouth home Friday.

“The house is excellently run and it is a shame these allegations have come up. I never saw any misbehaving by Father Abbass. He genuinely cares about the men and is professional.”

Carter’s sentiments echoed those of a resident of Frenchvale, Cape Breton, where Talbot House is located, who praised Abbass as an important member of the community.

“Until the facts are out, I don’t condemn anybody,” said the woman, who asked that her name not be published.

“He’s a kind and approachable man, and I have dealt with him in the community. People automatically rush to conclusions these days because he is a Catholic priest, which isn’t fair. It’s like racial profiling.”

Carter turned to Talbot House after over a decade of drug abuse, including using heroin and cocaine.

“I was at wit’s end,” said Carter, who had the Cape Breton institution recommended to him by a friend.

Following the home’s requirements, he first went through detox, then passed a urine test before being admitted. Carter said residents had opportunities to visit a doctor a couple of times a month, saw a provincial drug rehabilitation specialist once a month, and had daily therapy.

There were also excursions to Cape Breton Screaming Eagles hockey games and other events.

“Residents are told when they’re admitted that they won’t be permitted access to addictive or abusable drugs,” said Carter.

“A lot of people would get pissed off as a result of that. Some people would dwell on that, and you have to keep in mind these are really sick people.”

As a result, Carter said there’s a possibility of unfair accusations being made toward staff. He said no one should judge before the Community Services Department completes its ongoing operational review of Talbot House.

“I’ve had a few slip-ups since leaving Talbot House but, on the whole, it has completely turned my life around,” said Carter.

“I went to university and am a whole lot healthier than I was before. If anything, we need more of these institutions.”

( abeswick@herald.ca)

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