Etienne: Father Jean-Claude Etienne

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Priest, Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie, ordained 29 June 1961.  2008 Lawsuit settled with two men who endured sex abuse as children at the hands of Father Etienne. Other lawsuits have been commenced.

Apparently there is evidence that by 1970 several parents had complained  to Bishop Alexander Carter about  Father Etienne , and Bishop Carter  in turn wrote a letter to Etiennce advising of the complaints and told him to stay away from certain boys – a number of local boys were listed by name.


10 February 2015:  Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation for the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie v. AXA Insurance (2015 ONSC 838)  (The Sault Ste Maire Diocese is ordered “to produce for examination for discovery” Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe to answer questions concerning Canon Law,  the policies and practices of the Diocese and the operation and oversight of the Diocese.  There is considerable and disturbing mention in the decision of facts related to one of the diocese’s infamous and recently deceased sexual predators, Father John Sullivan. The legal action however relates to 16 sexual claims against diocesan priests.  The diocese was arguing that it is insured.  AXA insurance was arguing that it is entitled in law to deny coverage on the basis of material misrepresentation, material non-disclosure and bad faith.  The position taken by the defendant is that the policy is void ab initio.


The following information is drawn from copies of the Canadian Catholic Church Directories (CCCD) which I have on hand, teh 1980 Ontario Catholic Directory (OCD)and media (M)

1997:  died

1991:  pastor, Our Lady of Marcy, Coniston, Ontario (CCCD)

1985:  Pastor, St. Louis de France Roman Catholic Church, (CCCD)

1980:  Pastor, Holy Family Roman Catholic Church, Blind River, Ontario (OCD)

1973-74:  Pastor, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Roman Catholic Church, Ontario, Val Therese, Ontario (CCCD)

July 1970:  A letter sent to Father Etienne by Bishop Alexander Carter allegedly warned Etienne to stay away from a number of altar boys due to complaints from their parents and listed a number of local boys by name. (M)

1968-69: St. Jean de Brebeuf, Sudbury, Ontario (Pastor, Mgr. L.J. Cote, also assisting at parish Father R.A. Despatie (CCCD)



Abuse victims settle with church

The Sudbury Star

Friday, October 17, 2008 11:47:54 EDT AM

Carol Mulligan

By Carol Mulligan, Sudbury Star

There isn’t enough gold in the Vatican to erase the suffering two men endured as child sexual abuse victims of a Roman Catholic priest in Warren almost 40 years ago, says one of the men.

But now that their legal battle with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie is over, they intend to focus on healing and reaching out to help other victims.

Robert Berube, 53, and a man who wishes only to be known as Claude, 49, held a news conference in Sudbury on Thursday to talk about their fight for justice.

The men were joined by lawyer Rob Talach, of the London-based firm Ledroit Beckett Litigation Lawyers.

The diocese recently settled a suit with the men for years of sexual abuse suffered at the hands of Father Jean-Claude Etienne when he was parish priest at St. Thomas Apotre Parish and St. Thomas Separate School in Warren, which both men attended at different times.

“Some will misconstrue and state that we became multimillionaires at the expense of the diocese. Far from it,” said Berube. “Claude and myself, we did not win the Lotto, and we did not do the happy dance.”

Berube was suing the diocese for $3.1 million and Claude for $4.5 million for pain and suffering they said were the result of abuse by the priest they once loved. Etienne died in 1997 at the age of 66.

Berube came forward in July 2005 with claims of having been controlled, brutalized and raped by Etienne for 3 1/2 years, starting in 1969 when he was 13.

Claude announced in February 2007 he had filed a lawsuit against the diocese, alleging that when he was 10 and a devout altar boy, Etienne began sexually abusing, assaulting and molesting him for three years.

Talach said his clients, whose claims were resolved out of court, reached a “reasonable settlement” with the diocese.

“We’re not going to get into (the amount) or terms” of those settlements, Talach told a half dozen reporters at the Radisson Hotel.

Berube called the settlement “agreeable,” adding his “quest was for justice and healing. It was never for money.”

To have “stayed and gone to court to get the last penny, it’s wrong,” he told reporters.

Berube was suing the diocese for $3.1 million and Claude for $4.5 million for pain and suffering they said were the result of abuse by the priest they once loved.

Etienne died in 1997 at the age of 66.

Berube was a school principal living in London, Ont., several years ago when he filed his lawsuit against the diocese.

Claude came forward with his claims of abuse almost two years after Berube, who held a news conference to announce he would no longer suffer silently.

Claude still lives in Warren and still shudders when he walks or drives past the church where some of the abuse Etienne inflicted on him was perpetrated.

Other men claiming to have been child victims of Etienne have come forward since Berube and Claude went public, and some were at Thursday’s news conference, said Berube.

Talach said his clients’ case against the diocese regarding the Etienne allegations got a boost from witnesses who “spoke up so the truth could be known …

“As a result of the public’s awareness of this matter, information was obtained, which assisted in corroborating their claims of abuse,” said Talach, reading from a prepared statement.

The most dramatic information received was about a letter sent to Etienne in July 1970 by Alexander Carter, who was then bishop of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie.

“The letter, which was viewed by a witness, warned Etienne to stay away from a number of altar boys due to complaints from their parents,” said Talach. “It listed a number of local boys by name.”

Talach couldn’t say if more lawsuits would be filed because of Etienne’s abuse.

“But if he’s as prolific as I learned he was through our investigation in these two cases, I won’t be surprised if there’s more.”

Talach said the abuse Etienne inflicted on young boys was so traumatic, “many of the leads we followed led to suicides, usually related to drugs or alcohol. There’s a clear link to childhood sexual abuse, though.”

After Berube went public with his lawsuit in 2005, he said he heard from more than 50 men in the North Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie areas who claim to have been abused by priests when they were children.

Many have filed lawsuits against the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie.

Talach said Claude’s case, which was announced at the same time as two others, was accelerated to be dealt with at the same time as Berube’s.

“The other cases are trudging along through our civil litigation system, which is famous for being anything but fast.”

Talach said Berube and Claude have received “some justice. I say some and not absolute justice, for their abuser died without having to account for his crimes.

“Another irreversible fact is that the damage inflicted upon their minds and souls will never completely fade.”


Sault Diocese knew of sex abuse — lawyer

The Sudbury Star


The Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie knew Father Jean-Claude Etienne of Warren was abusing altar boys as far back as 1970, a lawyer for two sexual abuse victims said Thursday.

Robert Berube, 53, and a second man known as Claude, recently reached a settlement with the diocese for an undisclosed amount. Berube launched a $3.1-million lawsuit three years ago, followed in 2007 by Claude, who sued for $4.5 million, based on alleged abuse they endured 30 years ago.

The “most dramatic of all the information” discovered was a letter from then-Bishop Alexander Carter warning Etienne to stay away from a number of boys at St. Thomas Apotre Parish, said lawyer Rob Talach at a press conference Thursday.

Talach, with Ledroit Beckett Litigation Lawyers, of London, said Carter sent the letter in July 1970, responding to complaints by parents and listing a number of local boys by name.

Berube told reporters Etienne abused him for three-and-a-half years, starting in 1969 when he was 13. His claim listed a dozen particulars of the alleged abuse, including fondling, oral sex, sodomy, striking, punching, throwing and assault.

The claim alleged Etienne “engaged in a pattern of behaviour that was intended to make the plaintiff feel that his soul was in jeopardy.”

Claude, who asked his last name not be published because he hasn’t told some family members his story, said Etienne also abused him for about three years, beginning when he was 10.

Talach expects more victims to come forward with the publicity of these two cases. He said the diocese should be held even more accountable for crimes committed after 1970, when it was clear leaders knew what was happening.

As Etienne’s employer, Talach argues, the diocese was legally responsible for his actions.

Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe, head of the diocese, said an apology has been issued “to the individuals concerned.”

But a public apology won’t be forthcoming from the diocese, nor will money be contributed to a program to help men suffering post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of abuse by priests.

“A public apology has not been the practice of the church,” said Plouffe.

Berube and Claude are challenging the diocese to establish a program to help male sexual abuse survivors and to fund it.

A similar program in London, Ont., is heavily funded by the Roman Catholic diocese, said Berube.

Plouffe said his diocese simply doesn’t have the money to get involved in such a program at this time.

He said some “worthwhile” pastoral services may have to be “restricted” or “restrained” and other expenses cut to cover the cost of legal settlements.

Talach’s law firm specializes in litigation concerning clergy sexual abuse and has been part of several high profile court cases in Cornwall and London.

He currently has six outstanding cases in this diocese, including a Sault Ste. Marie man who claims he was repeatedly assaulted by a city priest in 1965. Jim Lanigan alleges he was 15 when Rev. Roy McParland sexually abused him, including anal and oral sex.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

McParland, 77, is the only one still alive of four area priests Talach’s clients are suing. McParland founded St. Gerard Majella Parish before moving on to Our Lady of Good Counsel, where he stayed for two decades until he retired in 2004.

Talach said he is trying to schedule an “examination for discovery,” which involves question and answer sessions with all parties involved.

“There are wonderful, holy men who serve in the priesthood,” said Talach. “There are also some monsters operating in the cloth.”

He said the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie is beginning to deal with these allegations instead of sweeping incidents under the rug, but Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe still needs to be more proactive.

Some larger dioceses, like London, now automatically fund counselling for victims who come to them with credible claims of abuse.

Bishop Plouffe was not available for comment Thursday.

Talach said the Catholic Church has to start looking at clergy sexual abuse as a systemic problem instead of just “a number of rogue, bad priests.”

“Why do so many of these characters end up in the priesthood and are allowed to do what they do for so long?”


Oprah Winfrey tackles male childhood sexual abuse

 CTV News News Staff

Published Friday, November 5, 2010 12:00PM EDT

In a bid to shatter a pervasive stereotype, Oprah Winfrey’s regular studio audience of female fans is being replaced today, by 200 male survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

For the first episode in a two-part series on the subject, Oprah was the only woman amongst the sea of men.

As the episode opens, the men all stand silently clutching photos of themselves taken at the approximate age they were abused as children. Sudbury, Ont.-native Robert Berube was one of 30 Canadian men who took part in the program.

“I think what really got to us was Oprah was the only woman, and the tears started coming down so it was pretty dramatic in a sense and very, very touching,” Berube told CTV’s Canada AM in an interview from London, Ont. Friday morning.

Oprah Winfrey has often spoken about her own experience of childhood sexual abuse that began when she was just nine years old.

Berube, 55, went public with his history of abuse in 2005, with claims he had been abused by his childhood parish priest Father Jean-Claude Etienne. The abuse, Berube said, began when he was just 13 and continued for the next 3 1/2 years. Etienne died in 1999.

Berube and another man sued the diocese and ultimately won a settlement from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie in 2008.

In the years since, Berube resolutely abandoned his 30-year silence on the subject to become an ardent activist for the rights of men who suffered childhood sexual abuse.

He now runs a Facebook site as well as a support group, both of which are called Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse and Violence.

“After I had a breakdown and depression I went public… and sort of became a militant,” Berube said, explaining he knows of at least ten other men who survived abuse at the same hand he did. Another five took their own lives.

“It’s pretty sad because this pedophile priest destroyed lives where people commit suicide, but also destroyed the lives of all the other boys that he abused,” the retired school principal said.

Recalling his experience at the Oprah taping in Chicago last month, Berube was surprised how affected he was when he walked into the studio and saw his childhood photo was one of a handful that had been enlarged and prominently displayed behind the show’s famous host.

“When I saw that I was really surprised, it really touched me. I said ‘Oh my God, the kid’s here now’,” Berube said, adding that he later teased his wife about the experience. “I said I went to Chicago and got my inner child back.”

More than 10,000 applied to be part of the shows Oprah calls “two of the most phenomenal” she’s ever produced.

The first episode, featuring the all-male audience, filmmaker Tyler Perry and a psychologist who works with male sexual abuse survivors, airs on CTV Friday afternoon. The next episode, which will focus on the impact of abuse on victims’ relationships with spouses, partners and girlfriends, will be broadcast at the same time next Friday, November 12.

With files from CTV’s Canada AM and The Associated Press


Bishop’s reaction to lawsuit

Bay Today

by: Kate Adams

Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe released the following statement Saturday after three Northern Ontario residents launched a multi-million dollar lawsuit Friday.

Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe released the following statement Saturday after three Northern Ontario residents launched a multi-million dollar lawsuit Friday.

The lawsuit alleges sexual abuse by four priests serving the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie in Warren, North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Three of the four men named are dead, they are; Father Magnus J. Fedy of Scollard Hall in North Bay, Father John Fisher of North Bay’s Assumption Pro-Cathedral, and Father Jean-Claude Etienne of St-Thomas Apôtre Parish and St. Thomas Separate School in Warren, Ontario. Father Roy J. McParland of Sault Ste. Marie is still alive.

Each plaintiff is seeking $4.5 million in damages.


Sudbury – The following will be read to the parishioners at weekend masses on February 17 and 18 in all churches of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie, at the personal request of Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe.

The bishop has declared that he did not want to avoid his pastoral duties.

He officially confirms the news released by the media stating that the Diocese has recently been served three lawsuits concerning allegations of abuse by four priests, three are deceased, and one is retired because of age and no longer in active ministry.

These particular cases date back many years ago.

“I am deeply saddened by this news,” said the bishop.

“These situations do not leave me indifferent. They are most sensitive and painful for all involved and have an impact on the whole diocese. We will do what is necessary and within our power to see that light be shed on these allegations.”

The bishop invites the faithful to pray for everyone involved in these cases and for the Diocesan Church.

“Our prayer must focus on Christ who, Alone, can strengthen our faith in Him at these trying moments.”

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