One obtained a prestigious position in Rome, the other failed in an orphanage in Malta. Here is the disconcerting journey of six churchmen accused of pedophile crimes.
21 March 2017
Isabelle Hachey La Presse
[see also 21 March 2017: “Pedophile priests: Haunted by Father Rivoire” & original French text
Accused of committing particularly degrading sexual abuse to dozens of Inuit children in the Far North, this Oblate father was subject to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) warrant of arrest in 1995, He fled to his country of origin, Belgium – with the support of his religious community and the tacit agreement of the Canadian authorities, according to the highest official of the Oblates of Belgium.
On June 13, 1995, Eric Dejaeger was scheduled to appear in court to face charges of sexual assault on children in Igloolik, Nunavut. Oblate father was then serving five years in prison for assaulting children from another community in Baker Lake. That day, however, Eric Dejaeger did not set foot in court; He had escaped to Belgium.
In his flight, the pedophile was not only supported by his congregation, but also by his lawyer, police officers and representatives of the federal Department of Justice. All of them would have advised him to leave Canada, according to the highest official of the oblates in Belgium, Georges Vervust, who confided in Belgian and Canadian media.
For 16 years, Eric Dejaeger was protected by his congregation in Belgium. In Nunavut, his victims thought him dead. It was a Belgian activist, Lieve Halsberghe, who taught them that their executioner was still alive. For years she has sought the extradition of Father Oblate in Canada. In vain.
It was only when a Belgian journalist discovered that Eric Dejaeger had lost his citizenship in 1977 – when the Oblate father had been naturalized in Canada – that Brussels expelled him to Canada in 2011. “He was expelled Not because he was a rapist of children, but because he had lied about his nationality, “indignantly Lieve Halsberghe.
The trial was held in Iqualuit. In 2015, Eric Dejaeger was convicted of 32 sexual crimes, including rape, sodomy and bestiality, committed on children of Igloolik. These aggressions of a rare violence have broken dozens of lives and have earned the pedophile a record punishment in the country: 19 years behind the bars.
In 1993, he was sought in Canada, where he was accused of sexual assaults against Ontario children, brother Godwin Scerri found refuge in his home country of Malta. Despite his pedophile past, the religious authorities of this small island planted in Heart of the Mediterranean have entrusted him with a position in an orphanage, the house of St. Joseph. And what was to happen happened. In 2012, Godwin Scerri was sentenced to five years in prison for assaulting ten orphans. He was released on parole in 2015. “Pedophiles are sick in the head, but those who protect them are real criminals. They are creating new victims, “says Belgian activist Lieve Halsberghe. Brother Godwin, a former priest of the St. Paul Mission Society, has never set foot in Canada, where he is still under arrest warrants.
Jean-Level Éliscard (Montreal)
When the Archdiocese of Montreal hired Jean-Level Éliscard as a hospital chaplain in 2003, he apparently did not know that the priest of Haitian origin had been found guilty eight years earlier of raping a 13-year-old parishioner New Jersey. The father of the victim had surprised the priest lying on his tearful daughter, his robe raised on his thighs. While a criminal investigation was underway, Jean-Level Éliscard had tried to flee to Haiti, but had been intercepted in extremis at the New York airport. The Archdiocese of Montreal raised the priest in 2004, after being joined by the Dallas Morning News. A spokesman for the archdiocese told the newspaper that Jean-Level Éliscard had been recommended by the Bishop of Cayes, who had failed to reveal the criminal past of the priest to his Montreal colleagues.
Thirty years ago, the best way for a Canadian to get an audience with the Pope was through Bernard Prince. It was this Ontario priest who organized a meeting, for example, between Céline Dion and John Paul II in 1984.
Close to the pope, Bernard Prince obtained a prestigious position in Rome and retained it until his retirement in 2004, although the Vatican and the Canadian Church had known for at least a decade serious allegations against him.
In 1991, Bishop Prince was appointed Secretary General of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith in Rome. Two years later, the Bishop of Pembroke, Ont., Joseph Windle, was worried in writing about a possible scandal – and wondered how to conceal it.
“Although the accusations against Father Prince are very serious, I do not object to giving him another chance, since it removes him from the Canadian public scene,” wrote the bishop to Carlo Curis, Of the pope in Canada.
“What saves us is the fact that it seems that the victims are of Polish origin and that their respect for the ministry and the Church prevents them from making these allegations public or to lay criminal charges against a priest “Said Bishop Windle in this letter, which was revealed by the Globe and Mail in 2010.
The letter was written in 1993, one year after the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops had recommended that clergymen alert police immediately when they were made aware of allegations of sexual assault.
The Canadian prelates, on the contrary, sought to camouflage the facts in order to preserve the image of the Church. Lost Punishment: Charges were laid in 2006 against Bernard Prince. Returning to Canada, he was sentenced to four years in prison in 2008 for assaulting 13 boys in Ontario.
Michael Zenker was 11 when he was assaulted for the first time by Wilfred Systermans. It was in 1979. He was a camelot in Waterloo, Ontario, and the church of the priest of German origin was on his distribution route. “It lasted three years. It was brutal, “he remembers.
Now aged 48, Michael Zenker has suffered all his life from these sexual assaults – and from the denial of justice he was subsequently victimized.
In 1990, young Michael Zenker found the courage to complain to the police. The investigators found Wilfred Systermans in Edmonton but did not have time to question him before the Pallotin congregation repatriated him to Germany.
“For me, it is clear that the congregation has transferred him to Germany so that he does not face justice in Canada,” says Michael Zenker.
Wilfred Systermans died in 1996, leaving his victim alone with his pain and anger. Michael Zenker sued the Pallotins and the diocese of Hamilton the following year, claiming $ 3 million. After an exhausting battle, he settled amicably, in 2015, for a sum kept confidential.
Raynald Couture (France)
Priest Raynald Couture was transferred to France after sexually assaulting Aboriginal children in Quebec. He believes his superiors hoped to stifle the scandal.
“He has the impression, even if it has never been discussed with his superiors, that the authorities moved him in 1991 to send him to France because there were rumors and the authorities were aware Of the activities he had had with boys, ” reads a ruling against the priest in 2004.
Raynald Couture received 15 months in prison for assaulting eight children from Wemontaci, an Atikamekw reserve near La Tuque. During his trial, the priest denied attacking other children in France or Quebec.
21 March 2017