New Brunswick Catholic diocese seeks to pay sex abuse victims from training fund

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Published Wednesday November 10th, 2010

BATHURST, N.B. – A Roman Catholic Diocese in New Brunswick wants to access funds that were intended to help train future clergy in order to compensate people sexually assaulted by a priest in the past.

Bishop Valery Vienneau has asked the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench to allow the Bathurst diocese to take money from trust funds established by bequests to the church.

A conciliation process has identified 35 people who deserve compensation and apologies as a result of being abused.

Former Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache was hired by the diocese to conduct the conciliation earlier this year after Levi Noel, a former priest, pleaded guilty to charges of sexual assault against 18 boys between 1958 and 1980.

Noel was sentenced to eight years in prison.

The bishop has repeatedly apologized to the victims on behalf of the church.

The diocese has extended the deadline for the conciliation process to Dec. 1, but some people have expressed interest in taking legal action instead.

Justice Frederick Ferguson has scheduled a hearing for Monday in Bathurst to deal with the trust fund matter. He has refused a request from the diocese to have the matter heard behind closed doors.

According to a court application released Wednesday, the lawyer for the church says the amount of money in the trust funds far exceeds the intended use and only seven people entering the priesthood have sought financial help in the last 15 years.

There are 21 trusts from bequests made between 1911 and 1995. The church did not reveal how much the bequests are worth in the application.

Some of the trusts have restrictions that prevent the use of the original value of the bequest.

The lawyer for the diocese has requested that, if necessary, access be granted to all the money in the unrestricted trusts and up to all of the interest in the restricted trusts.

Justice Ferguson has appointed lawyer Bruce Eddy of Fredericton to represent future recipients of the trusts when the hearing is held next week.

No one from the diocese was available for comment.

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