Allegations date from 1950s to 1980s while pastor worked at dayboarding schools
Posted: Apr 09, 2019 1:58 PM CT
Authorities in Scotland have charged a long-serving pastor in a Saskatchewan archdiocese with physical and sexual abuse and have been authorized by the Canadian government to extradite him, according to a letter issued by the Archdiocese of Regina.
The Canadian government approved the extradition of Father Robert MacKenzie on March 22.
The allegations in question date back to a period spanning the 1950s to the 1980s when MacKenzie was working at day and boarding schools in Scotland.
According to Bishop Donald Bolen of the Archdiocese of Regina, MacKenzie moved to Canada in 1988.
He served as an associate pastor at Blessed Sacrament and Holy Trinity in Regina. He was then assigned to work in Marquis and Central Butte, Sask., for one year.
Between 1990 and 2002 MacKenzie practised in Cupar, Dysart and Lipton, Sask.
After his retirement, he still served in Cupar conducting mass there until the archdiocese restricted his ministry in 2013 because one alleged victim had come forward.
That restriction was lifted in 2015, before Bolen had taken over as leader of the archdiocese.
“In retrospect I don’t think it was a good idea to lift those restrictions,” Bolen said. “We wouldn’t today. But we’re in the process of learning how to be responsible and place victims first in all circumstances.”
Bolen said the archdiocese was informed criminal proceedings against MacKenzie would get underway in 2017.
MacKenzie, who was then 84, was moved from his church-appointed home to a retirement home where his movements were more restricted, according to Bolen.
In 2017, more information about the allegations MacKenzie faced were brought to the archdiocese’s attention and he was suspended.
Bolen said he sees MacKenzie, whose health is ailing, from time to time. He said MacKenzie has, all along, denied the allegations against him.
Potential victims given chances to tell their story
Two years ago, the archdiocese held a meeting in Cupar where they shared what they knew about the case, according to Bolen. People were invited to ask questions or share concerns they had.
He said no more allegations of physical or sexual abuse against MacKenzie came to light in any of those gatherings.
Bolen said the archdiocese is working to create safe spaces through services for all victims of sexual or physical abuse to come forward.
Bolen said the archdiocese isn’t holding services for victims of physical or sexual abuse by clergy because of the alleged actions against MacKenzie.
“There is a history and legacy of sexual abuse in the way back in the archdiocese, there are many victims and we want to indicate to other victims that they could come forward, and as a church to learn how to walk compassionately, listening attentively to victims,” Bolen said.
Saskatchewan priest faces extradition to Scotland over sexual abuse charges
09 April 2019
A retired Archdiocese of Regina priest is facing extradition to Scotland to face charges of physical and sexual abuse while working at day and boarding schools.
Father Robert MacKenzie has been charged by Scottish authorities for abuse alleged to have happened when he held positions at the schools.
Scottish authorities obtained a surrender order from Canada’s Minister of Justice on March 22, which authorizes MacKenzie’s extradition.
A spokesperson from Scotland’s Crown Office and Prosecutor Fiscal Service said they are not in the position to provide full charges. He added full charges can only be obtained in Scotland once the accused has been indicted and appears for a preliminary hearing.
MacKenzie, 85, is still in Canada according to a spokesperson with the Archdiocese of Regina. Scottish authorities are making arrangements for medical accompaniment during his extradition and while awaiting trial in Scotland.
MacKenzie joined the Archdiocese of Regina in 1988 and retired from parish ministry in 2002.
During his time in the archdiocese he served in two Regina churches – Blessed Sacrament and Holy Trinity – before moving to St. John the Evangelist in Marquis, Sask., in 1989 and then to St. Patrick in Cupar, Sask., where he worked until his retirement.
According to a letter sent by the Archdiocese of Regina to their priests and parishes, MacKenzie worked at the two Scottish schools from the 1950s to the 1980s while a member of “a religious order in Scotland.”
Regina’s Archbishop Donald Bolen said the archdiocese was first notified of the investigation in 2013. Bolen came to the area in 2016. The archdiocese was informed that MacKenzie had been arrested, charged and quickly released in March 2017. MacKenzie was 84-years-old at the time.
While the investigation has been ongoing, Bolen said MacKenzie has maintained his innocence and cooperated with authorities.
Following archdiocese policy, MacKenzie was moved into a retirement home at the time, where his movement and activities could be further restricted.
“I think if there’s any question on if further abuse and just – for safety’s sake -to remove the possibility of any further abuse abuse taking place,” Bolen said.
Canada’s Justice Ministry said they cannot comment publicly on the matter due to a publication ban. They could confirm that this case is ongoing, and provided the following statement:
At this point in the process, the Minister must decide on the surrender of the individual based on the wording of the Extradition Act. Commonly referred to as the executive or ministerial phase, the Minister will receive and consider any submissions from the person committed for extradition or counsel for the defence with respect to why the person should not be surrendered, or concerning any conditions that should be attached to the surrender.
An individual sought for extradition may apply for judicial review of the Minister’s decision on surrender to the Court of Appeal in the province where the extradition hearing took place.
No allegations against MacKenzie have surfaced in communities where he’s served while apart of the Archdiocese of Regina.
Righting past wrongs
Bolen issued a formal apology to victims of clergy sexual abuse on Ash Wednesday this year.
The Archdiocese of Regina recently introduced a program for victims to help report abuse and find victim services supports.
“What we are learning, and have been very slow to learn, is we always need to put victims first,” Bolen said. “Our first obligation is to victims, to welcome them when we come forward and to let them in some sense take the lead in the process.”
Bolen said there have been “many instances” of sexual abuse in the archdiocese, mostly dating to 30 years or more ago.
“It’s been difficult for victims and often they have experienced that the church places its own interest and reputation above concern and care for them. So we’ve tried to reverse that,” he continued.
The archdiocese has been hosting prayer services for victims and using their input to draft training programs for church officials, particularly ministers. The protocol on how to handle allegations is being revised so it is more victim friendly.
While MacKenzie joined the archdiocese long before MacKenzie became the local archbishop, the procedures to bring in new ministers is being revised too. This will include criminal record checks, a review panel made up of non-clergy members and recommendation letters from previous bishops.
“We’re trying to create a space where victims can in fact speak honestly and take steps that they need toward healing, and that we need in order to be deeply honest about mistakes and sins of the past,” Bolen said.
The Archdiocese said in a Monday letter to its pastors and parishes that Scottish authorities have charged MacKenzie, now 85, for physical and sexual abuse that allegedly occurred at those schools, whose students were primarily children.
According to the letter, the federal minister of justice granted a surrender order on March 22 to authorize MacKenzie’s extradition to Scotland, where he will face trial for offences related to his position at the schools.
Deacon Eric Gulash, a spokesman for the Archdiocese, said it has been informed that the charges span decades.
“The timeframe that we have been given is between 1950 and 1981,” he said, adding that the Archdiocese has received information that several complainants are involved.
No allegations against MacKenzie have surfaced in the communities he served while in Saskatchewan, according to the Archdiocese. Gulash said the Archdiocese has held open meetings at parishes where MacKenzie served to assess whether any abuse had taken place.
Gulash said the Archdiocese first learned of “suspicions” coming from Scotland in 2013. He said MacKenzie’s actions were restricted at the time.
But the proceedings were later dropped, according to Gulash. It was only in 2016 that the case began to pick up steam again. The Archdiocese then imposed further restrictions on MacKenzie, and suspended his faculties as a priest as the allegations became more specific.
MacKenzie retired in 2002 but continued to assist other priests in Cupar until he was moved to a retirement home in Regina.
Gulash could not confirm when MacKenzie will be extradited to Scotland. He said MacKenzie is dealing with medical problems and Scotland is arranging for appropriate care.
When the Leader-Post first reported on the allegations against MacKenzie, in 2017, he was telling senior church officials that he was innocent.
The archdiocese is continuing to provide opportunities for potential victims of sexual abuse to come forward, according to Gulash.
“We’ve been encouraging parishes across the diocese to hold prayer sessions for victims of sexual abuse,” he said, adding that resource people are on hand to accompany anyone who wants to bring forward concerns at that time.