The Moncton Archdiocese has suspended two Roman Catholic priests as a result of information brought forward by a former Supreme Court judge.
In a news release sent out by Diocesan Pastoral Coordinator Donald Langis, it was announced that Rev. Yvon Arsenault and Irois Després have been suspended indefinitely. Arsenault was most recently a Moncton-based priest at Saint Augustine’s Church and St. Michael’s Church. He was removed from ministry as of July 4, and retired that same month.
Irois Després was also removed from any ministry. Though he retired in 1992, retired priests can still perform duties, so the suspension will prevent that from happening.
The news release states the Archdiocese of Moncton removed the two Diocesan priests “from any ministry whatsoever following allegations of serious sexual abuse on minors on their part.”
Former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Michel Bastarache brought the allegations to the attention of the archdiocese, while maintaining the confidentiality of those who came forward to make complaints. The allegations were made to Bastarache during the archdiocese’s independent reconciliation and compensation process for victims of sexual abuse.
The Moncton Archdiocese tasked Bastarache with setting up and managing a conciliation process for people who said they were victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the late Rev. Camille Léger, a former priest of the parish of Cap-Pelé. The former judge previously fulfilled a similar role for the diocese in Bathurst.
In a statement read in all Diocesan churches in the Moncton area over the weekend, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Moncton Archbishop Valéry Vienneau asked forgiveness from the complainants and their families.
Referring to the reconciliation process, Vienneau added “We fully support the process instigated by Mr. Michel Bastarache for the victims and we pledge to be vigilant to ensure that anyone working in the Church fully complies with the policies in place to prevent abuse of any kind.”
When Langis was reached for comment, he said there was nothing more he could add.
“Because of the nature of the press release, we’re not to make any comments,” he said.
While Arsenault and Després have been suspended indefinitely from duties, they are still priests. Defrocking a priest is a legal process which has not taken place in this instance.
According to their biographies on the Moncton Archdiocese website, Arsenault is 70 years old, while Després is 82. Both men worked in many different New Brunswick communities during their careers before retiring.
Després worked in Grande-Digue, Scoudouc, Dieppe, Saint-Ignace, Pointe-du-Chêne, Sackville, Dorchester, Memramcook, Shediac and other communities. Arsenault worked in Moncton, Shediac, Bouctouche, Scoudouc, Dorchester, Baie Sainte-Anne and several other places.
No information has been released regarding where and when the alleged incidents occurred.
New Brunswick RCMP Cpl. Chantal Farrah says police are never able to confirm or deny if any particular individual is being investigated.
“We can only confirm information if a charge has been laid,” she says.
Farrah adds that, generally speaking, police will investigate any complaint from a person who says they were sexually assaulted.
“It’s never too late for a person to make a complaint,” says the corporal. “If someone has been a victim of a crime, they can bring it to the police to investigate.”
In the case of sexual offences against young people, there is no statute of limitations, so if police find evidence, a charge can be laid even if the offence is decades old.