[Click here to read Part One “How Catholic Church turned blind eye…”)
Sunday 02 November 1990
by Kevin Donovan Toronto Star
MARSDEN, Sask. – The suicide note is four pages long, printed, single-spaced. It ends: “I don’t need prayers. I don’t believe in God, it’s a farce. Everybody is scared of it. My brother and I were both molested by a Catholic priest when I was seven and he was 14.
“Father (Luke) Meunier is b . . .s. . . . As long as people believe, you’re living in a false world. I have to go prepare now, good-bye cruel world. (signed) One of your temporary victims, (the author’s name).”
Shortly after that day in 1988, the 32-year-old man drove his car into a concrete bridge abutment at more than 160 kilometres (100 miles) an hour, killing himself.
The events his note referred to happened in the early 1960s, when Rev. Luke Meunier was parish priest at St. Charles Church in Marsden.
Meunier, 74, died of a heart attack in a Florida jail cell three weeks ago, shortly after a U.S. court ordered him extradited to Canada for trial. He had been arrested in December.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police estimate his individual assaults number “into the thousands” and stretch from New Liskeard in Ontario to Marsden, Sask., to New Denver, Kaslo and Prince Rupert in British Columbia and then to several cities in Arizona.
At least twice, senior Catholic church officials heard allegations of child abuse and moved him out of their diocese. In one case, another priest complained about Meunier to police, but the family refused to talk to the investigators.
The known trail begins in 1951. Meunier, a priest ordained in Giselle, Que., in 1939, was posted to the Northern Ontario town of New Liskeard. A former altar boy told police last year Meunier sexually abused him between 1951 and 1955.
Shortly after that time, Meunier was transferred out of the diocese to Saskatchewan.
Desperate for parish priests, Prince Albert Bishop Laurent Morin posted Meunier to St. Charles parish in Marsden, church officials in Saskatchewan say.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Corporal Russ Arnold says Meunier’s arrival in a new parish followed a pattern.
Meunier would befriend altar boys and get to know their families. One of the ways he assaulted them was to lock up the church after mass, stand on a chair and sing religious songs. Then he would have the altar boys masturbate him.
According to the suicide note left by the 32-year-old man, both he and his older brother were sexually assaulted by Meunier in Marsden in 1963. They did not file a complaint.
But in March, 1965, Morin received a letter from the parents of an 11-year-old girl in the parish.
The letter reads: “About three years ago, our daughter, then 8 years old, came home and told us that Father Meunier had touched her indecently. We, however, told our girl not to worry about it as he is also a weak human being and can make mistakes.”
But it happened again. Their daughter said Meunier was touching her “indecently” forcing her to masturbate him.
“A priest like this is detrimental for the salvation of souls of our family and all of us find it absolutely impossible to face him as our priest,” the parents wrote.
“We therefore request that Father Meunier be removed immediately from Marsden. We are willing to do anything to prevent a scandal but we cannot tolerate any delay. We wish your excellency to advise us as to your immediate action in this case.”
But the suspension Meunier was given likely only applied to the Prince Albert diocese, Morand said.
Somehow, Meunier convinced local church authorities to hold a farewell party honoring him. Then he paid his own way to Rome to take part in the last year of the Second Vatican Council, which began in 1962.
Although Meunier never attended, he referred to himself as a “special observer” to the council on his return to B.C. He used this status, complete with slide shows of Rome, to seek out more friendly families and more young boys.
By 1967, Meunier had settled at a New Denver parish. Retired RCMP Staff Sergeant Jim Aird recalls getting a telephone call from Rev. George Hart, a Redemptorist priest who had recently moved to another parish, leaving Meunier in charge.
“He called me and said there had been a problem with Father Meunier,” said Aird, now living in Kamloops.
The priest gave Aird the name of a young altar boy who, it was alleged, Meunier had sexually abused. Aird contacted the boy’s parents, who agreed to come down to the police station.
“But when they showed up, Meunier showed up with them,” Aird said. “Meunier kept saying to (the boy’s father), ‘What are you doing, my son, you don’t want to involve the police’.”
The boy’s father refused to let Aird question his son.
In a recent statement to the police, the father said he had agreed not to press charges because Bishop Wilfred Emmett Doyle in Nelson was going to get Meunier “a place away with older people.”
Aird wasn’t satisfied with this non-action. He went to his superiors, who contacted Doyle in Nelson. A few days later, Doyle sent Monsignor John Monaghan up to New Denver to remove Meunier.
“He actually physically threw him out,” Aird said. (The same Monsignor Monaghan in that case was recently convicted of sexually abusing young girls from 1959 to 1987).
“But it didn’t solve the problem,” Aird said. “It just moved it somewhere else.”
Aird said Doyle promised the Mounties Meunier would never be a priest in Canada again. However, Meunier showed up seven days later in Kaslo, on the other side of the mountain from New Denver.
After Aird informed the RCMP there of the New Denver incident, Meunier was asked by police to move on, and eventually did.
Doyle confirmed Meunier was ordered to leave New Denver but would not elaborate on the reasons.
“(Meunier) presented no references from any place in which he had served. Evidently, he made no mention of Marsden, Sask., so that no inquiries would be made,” Doyle told The Star.
After the New Denver incident, Doyle said he “was told that there were problems but not informed of what nature they were. Because (Meunier) brought no references I felt something was wrong and he was asked to leave.”
Nelson Crown Attorney Dana Urban said the Meunier case is a “prime example of where the church moved in and put a lid on” a complaint.
Made a deal
From New Denver, Meunier went south to Trail and then northwest to Prince Rupert. Police in those areas allege he also abused children.
Eventually, he went south into the United States.
Court records in Pima County, Ariz., show that police in Tucson arrested Meunier in 1972 and charged him with molesting children. He was released on a $50,000 appearance bond, which was waived when the church and victims made a deal and dropped the charges.
In 1975 Meunier was arrested again, this time while working at another Arizona parish. He was charged with three counts of child molestation and three counts of lewd and lascivious actions.
In February, 1976, Meunier was convicted of two of those charges, sentenced to one to three years in jail, and served two years.
Upon release, Meunier moved to Trinidad, Colo., and then to Mexico, to West Palm Beach, Fla., and then to St. Foy, Que.
When the RCMP, investigating a B.C. complaint from the past, tracked him down, Meunier was living in Florida. There had been no complaints about Meunier’s activity after 1975.
[Next article in this series: “Conviction didn’t end career“]