The Sudbury Star
Friday, October 19, 2012 8:12:34 EDT PM
Ted Holland (left), Jerome Myre, Rob Talach and Robert Roussel are calling upon the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie to defrock priests convicted of sexually assaulting children and provide funding for counselling for their victims. (Carol Mulligan/The Sudbury Star)
The lawyer representing 15 men who allege they were sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests is demanding the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie take a “trinity” of actions to help his clients get over their pain. Rob Talach is calling upon the diocese and its spiritual leader, Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe, to begin the process of defrocking priests who are convicted sexual offenders, to create a diocesan sexual abuse policy with input from victims and to pay for counselling for men who were abused.
Talach, from London-based Ledroit Beckett Litigation lawyers, was joined at a news conference Friday by four Sudbury men who were victims of two of six priests convicted criminally of sexual abuse dating back 50 years in Sudbury.
Talach lambasted the diocese and Plouffe for not taking a proactive approach to helping these men by funding counselling before the civil cases he has launched for the men are dealt with in court.
“Up here, this diocese, it’s the middle ages,” Talach said Friday at the Radisson Hotel on St. Anne’s Road, a stone’s throw from the diocese’s office across the street.
Dioceses such as London, whose bishop is Sudbury-born Ronald Fabbro, are offering counselling or funding for counselling to victims, without prejudice, so it doesn’t affect civil legal actions in which the two sides are involved, said Talach.
Talach called upon the diocese to do more — “actually just do something” — to help his clients get over the abuse they suffered at the hands of priests who worked in Sudbury.
The victims are calling for Bernard Cloutier, Donald Holmes, William Hodgson “Hod” Marshall, Thomas O’Dell, Gerald Roy and John E. Sullivan to be defrocked. All but Marshall, who is a member of the Basilian order, were employed by the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie when they sexually assaulted young victims.
Talach pointed to the case of Cloutier, who was convicted in 2011 and is serving time in a federal penitentiary.
“He’s a priest in good standing with this diocese?” asked Talach. “How can you have that contradiction?”
Two of Cloutier’s victims, who testified at his criminal trial, attended the news conference and spoke about how counselling would help them move forward in life.
Jerome Myre, 42, who was 11 when he was abused by Cloutier, told reporters:
“Counselling seems to be in endless supply” for priests who have abused children. A conductor/engineer with CP Rail, Myre can access counselling as part of his benefits at work.
Robert Roussell, 45, isn’t as lucky. A self-employed furnace technician, he has to pay for weekly counselling at a rate of $85 an hour.
After Friday’s news conference, Roussel said the demands on the diocese move him “another little inch towards closure. And it gets the word out there and brings other victims forward.”
Ted Holland, 57, and Denis Beland, 55, were about 14 when they were sexually abused by Marshall, who taught for years at St. Charles College.
Marshall, 89, was sentenced in June 2011 to two years in Kingston Penitentiary after pleading guilty to 17 charges of indecent assault, six involving Sudbury men.
Marshall has been released from prison and is living in Toronto, said Talach.
Talach will meet with lawyers for the diocese Nov. 22-23 regarding the civil lawsuits against Cloutier and with lawyers representing Marshall’s Basilian order Dec. 3-4 for examination in discovery.
Talach used a harsh analogy to illustrate how he believes the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie and Plouffe have dealt with wayward priests.
The lawyer likened the situation to a priest plowing with his car into a street full of children, hitting “all kinds of them,” injuring and killing many of them.
At the same time, the priest hits his head against the dashboard and sustains a bump.
“The bishop rushes in and gets the priest to the hospital and leaves all those kids in the street,” charged Talach. “That is exactly what is happening right now. These are children, laying in the street bleeding, and the bishop’s triaging the priest.”
Rev. Bob Bourgon is vicar-general for the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie, and is acting as its spokesman while Plouffe is in Rome attending the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th century native American woman.
Bourgon questioned whether it would be a responsible step for the diocese to essentially cut loose offending priests, defrocking them and severing ties.
If the church did that, it would have no way of monitoring and trying to prevent further criminal activity.
“We have some suasion,” said Bourgon. “If we cut them loose, we have no suasion.”
Bourgon said his diocese, and most in North America, have sexual abuse policies. At one time, the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie did pay for counselling for victims of sexual abuse by priests.
But the diocese is caught between the “rock and a hard place dealing with lawyers and insurance companies,” waiting for civil cases to proceed after criminal convictions are obtained, he said.
So, while the church does offer help to victims, it can only implement that policy “once the legalities are done.
“Without prejudice would be fine,” said Bourgon, “but it doesn’t exist, unfortunately.”