Five new sex abuse lawsuits filed against Catholic Church

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Moncton Times & Transcript

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

CRAIG BABSTOCK Times & Transcript

Five lawsuits have been filed against the Catholic Church in recent weeks, alleging sexual abuse by several New Brunswick priests, including the former chaplain at l’Université de Moncton.

Two men from Shediac and one from Riverview have filed separate lawsuits in Moncton, accusing priests of sexually abusing them as youths and the Catholic Church of enabling the abuse that dates back to the 1950s. The plaintiffs in all three Moncton cases are identified only by initials.

Two lawsuits have also been filed in Edmundston against a former priest in that northwestern New Brunswick community.

No statements of defence have been filed in any of the cases and none of the allegations made have been challenged or proven in court.

Yvon Arsenault and the Moncton Archdiocese are named in one of the Moncton lawsuits. Arsenault is accused of committing the abuse while he was a priest in Shediac.

During his time as an active priest he served in Moncton, Shediac, Bouctouche,Scoudouc,Dorchester, Baie Sainte-Anne and several other places.

Arsenault, the Moncton Archdiocese and priest Paul Breau are listed as defendants in the second lawsuit in Moncton. The abuse in that case is again alleged to have occurred while the two priests served in Shediac.

During his career, Breau served in Moncton, Shediac, Dieppe and was also chaplain at Notre-Dame d’Acadie on the Université de Moncton campus.

In a third lawsuit filed in Moncton, the defendants are the Bathurst Diocese and priest Normand Dugas. That lawsuit also accuses two other priests, now deceased, of sexual abuse.

Arsenault, now in his mid-70s, is awaiting trial later this month on more than a dozen sexual offences. He was suspended indefinitely by the Moncton Archdiocese in January 2013 when allegations of abuse were raised.

The Moncton Archdiocese sent out a news release late Thursday afternoon that said the archdiocese learned of the civil action against Breau on Oct. 5 and “is saddened by the news.

“While Father Breau had an excellent record, we will in accordance with our policy for the protection of minors and vulnerable persons, suspend Father Breau from any further activities as a cleric pending the outcome of the court case,” said Moncton Archbishop Valéry Vienneau.

The archbishop says the diocese has committed itself to a “stringent anti-abuse protocol” and has taken steps to resolve the claims of victims of sexual abuse, particularly those that came forward over the past several years through the reconciliation process led by former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Michel Bastarache. That process paid compensation to victims who came forward.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all victims and with the great majority of clerics who carry out their duties day-in and day-out to spread the Gospel and follow Christ’s example,” said the archbishop, who added that no further comment will be made on the legal matters.

The Times & Transcript reached Breau by phone on Thursday and he declined to discuss either his suspension or the allegations contained in the statement of claim.

“I won’t answer any questions, I don’t want to talk about it,”said Breau.

According to the court document, the plaintiff in the case against Breau and Arsenault was a young teen in the mid-1980s who, as part of his community service requirements in Shediac, raked leaves in the yard surrounding the parish of St-Joseph. Arsenault and Breau were in charge of overseeing that youth’s work and keeping track of his hours.

The allegation is that both priests used their position of authority to exploit the “priest-parishioner relationship,” prey upon the youth, and sexually abuse him over a period of time.

The archdiocese is accused of empowering and enabling the priests to commit the misconduct. The court document says the archdiocese is responsible for the priest’s actions and was “negligent, wilfully blind and maintained a system to cover up such activities.”

The statement of claim says the plaintiff suffered mental, physical and emotional stress.

There is no specific request for damages in the document, which was filed by Moncton lawyer Brian Murphy, who could not be reached for comment on Friday. Murphy also submitted the claim by the Riverview plaintiff against Arsenault and the archdiocese.

According to that statement of claim, Arsenault had asked the pre-teen boy to meet him at the Rectory of St-Joseph one weekend. The plaintiff alleges the priest sexually abused him on that occasion and “numerous” others, by using his position of authority to exert control over him.

Also in this lawsuit, the archdiocese is accused of being negligent, responsible for Arsenault’s actions, wilfully blind to the situation and maintaining a system that covered up such activities.

The plaintiff states he suffered a variety of repercussions from the abuse and is claiming unspecified damages.

The lawsuit against the Bathurst Diocese and priest Normand Dugas alleges sexual abuse by Dugas and two other priests – Arthur Gallien and Ubald Theriault – who are both deceased. The Shediac-based plaintiff says the abuse occurred when he was a parishioner in the Saint-Bernard Parish in Neguac and Church of St. Georges in Covedell.

The statement of claim alleges Gallien abused him for two years starting in 1959 and facilitated the abuse by making the youth feel like“he was special in the eyes of Gallien, the Church and God.”

Dugas and Theriault are alleged to have committed similar abuses against the plaintiff in the 1960s.

The accusation against the diocese is that the priests were put in a position of power and the diocese was negligent for failing in its duty to the plaintiff.

The claim is the diocese allowed the abuse to take place without proper supervision and failed to take action.

Damages are sought but in no specific amount.

Moncton lawyer Rene LeBlanc is representing the plaintiff in the case against the Bathurst Diocese.

In an interview Friday, he said he has represented more than 40 people in his practice who claimed abused by priests when they were young and that they are always difficult cases.

“I’ve had a 75-year-old man in my office crying about something that happened to them when they were eight,” said LeBlanc.“It’s a powerful experience. It’s not easy for them to talk about.”

LeBlanc said he has not yet completed the process for establishing compensation sought.

LeBlanc says he’s represented victims who went through the Catholic Church’s reconciliation and compensation process and also clients who have gone the civil court route. In this case, he said, his client came forward after the compensation process had ended and his lone option was filing the lawsuit.

“Victims have their own timelines. They all don’t come forward right away,” says LeBlanc.“A lot of them wrestle with it and hold it in and some never come forward.”

He says the effects of childhood abuse include depression, anxiety, shame, difficulty forming relationships, drug addiction and problems with authority.

LeBlanc says it’s too early to say if this matter can be settled, but he credits the church with always being willing to “come to the table” and discuss the issues.

In the two Edmundston lawsuits, the priest alleged to have committed the molestation is Rino Deschenes.

He’s a defendant, along with the Edmundston Diocese and the bishop.

Both plaintiffs – Yvon Thibodeau and Marcel Thibodeau – allege in their statements of claim that Deschenes abused them between the ages of 9 and 13 while they served as altar boys.

The court document states the boy’s parents told Bishop Claude Champagne what was happening and he transferred the priest to another parish.

– With files from the Victoria Star

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