Sexual assaults by priest cost church $150,000

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[Read previous article in this series: “Conviction didn’t end career”

Toronto Star
Monday 02 December 1990


By Kevin Donovan Toronto Star

OTTAWA – Rev. Dale Crampton‘s sexual assaults of young boys cost the Roman Catholic church $150,000.

That was the Ottawa archdiocese’s financial penance for failing to act on a previous complaint against Crampton, and for not counselling his victims.

The settlement is believed to be the first of its kind in Canada and could set a precedent for future actions against the church, similar to those in the United States since the early 1980s.

Minnesota lawyer Jeff Anderson estimates the Roman Catholic Church in the United States has paid out as much as $90 million to victims of priests.

Anderson, of St. Paul, Minn., has handled numerous cases himself and regularly keeps in touch with more than 100 lawyers acting on other cases against the church “in virtually every state.”

He said many of the U.S. cases have been decided on the basis of whether senior church officials were warned of abuse in the past.

Catholic church officials, on discovery of child abuse complaints, have “historically” kept the priests in the clergy, Anderson said.

“Instead of reporting them to the police or booting them out of there like most any other institution, they have, out of loyalty to their own, just moved them around secretly,” he said in an interview.

Among the financial settlements in the United States: * $15 million to 16 families in the case of a Lafayette, La., priest. * An estimated $2.5 million to three victims and their families in Orlando, Fla. * $375,000 to three boys abused by a priest in Springfield, Ill.

Canadian church officials interviewed by The Star say they hope parents and victims in this country will not follow the U.S. lead.

Valleyfield Bishop Robert Lebel, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the danger that the church will be sued is lessened if church officials report the complaints.

“If we follow the law there will not be lawsuits. (The priest) may be sued himself, but not the bishop,” Lebel said.

The three Catholic families in the Ottawa area who shared the $150,000 payout in the Crampton case did not make lightly the decision to sue their church, lawyer Bruce Carr-Harris said in a recent interview.

Placed on probation

“From the families’ perspective, they felt driven to seek a civil remedy because, having gone to the church for help after the assaults, they were shut out by officials, including the archbishop,” Carr-Harris said.

Crampton pleaded guilty in 1986 to seven counts of sexual assault involving altar boys aged 11 to 13 over a 10-year period dating back to 1973.

Diagnosed a homosexual pedophile, the 50-year-old Crampton was first placed on probation and ordered to continue treatment he’d started earlier that year. A crown appeal the next year increased his sentence to eight months in jail.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Crampton was a respected man in the community, as priest, school board trustee and as honorary chaplain for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

So it was not unusual that parents allowed their sons to stay overnight at the rectories of his Golbourn Township or Nepean churches, or to spend the weekend at his Horseshoe Bay cottage.

Once there, Crampton would make advances, hug and French kiss the boys, then take them to bed and fondle their genitals, court transcripts show.

One boy’s victim impact statement to the courts said he did not yet know the full effects of the assaults. “I’ll let you know when I have kids,” the boy wrote.

But some of the boys would never have been assaulted if church officials had paid heed to an earlier complaint, according to evidence from the civil action launched by the families of three victims.

‘Every measure’

According to court records, Crampton had invited a 13-year-old altar boy to his cottage for a day of snowmobiling in 1979. After drinking heavily, Crampton got into bed with the boy and fondled him.

The next morning, the boy went home and told his mother, who contacted a prominent Ottawa psychiatrist for help. The psychiatrist, a Catholic who had done work for the church’s marriage tribunal, took the complaint to Ottawa Bishop John Behan.

According to the psychiatrist’s account at the civil discovery proceeding, Behan said he would “look into it and take every measure, even the most drastic, to see it is taken care of.”

After waiting several weeks for Behan to call, the victim’s parents, guilt-ridden because they had entrusted their child to Crampton, called and made their own appointment.

The parents say they explained the assault to Behan at a Feb. 16, 1979, meeting and he promised to correct the situation. It is not known what, if any, action was taken by Behan, but no report of the incident was made to police or children’s aid at the time.

More assaults followed over the next three years, including abuse of the three victims whose families launched the civil suit.

In her victim impact statement at Crampton’s 1986 criminal hearing, the mother of the 1979 victim writes: “(Bishop Behan) assured us that the matter would be dealt with following an investigation. It upset me very much that in subsequent years Mr. Crampton continued to operate within the Catholic church, performing the duties of a priest.”

‘Momentary weakness’

And the boy’s father writes: “It was only last summer when there was an indication that Dale Crampton had been involved with other children that I realized that based on statements from the archbishop’s office that nothing had been done with our report and, in fact, that it might have been suppressed by church officials.”

During the discovery portion of the civil proceedings, Behan (who died two years ago) denied hearing anything of the 1979 complaint.

However, Behan said some boys had complained in the mid-1960s that Crampton had exposed himself to them. Crampton neither confirmed nor denied the incident and Behan attributed it to a “momentary weakness,” according to the civil examination evidence.

Despite knowing the church had prior warning, the three families might not have sued if the archdiocese, after Crampton was charged, had shown sympathy and provided counselling for the victims, lawyer Carr-Harris said.

“But it was my clients’ view the church was moving to protect its own and was indifferent to the concerns of the families,” he said.

The only attempt made at counselling was when church officials sent one family to a local priest who told the parents it was the boy’s fault and “he must have liked it,” Carr-Harris said.

Although the civil action began in late 1986, the trial was not set until last October. On Oct. 11, the night before the jury was to be picked, the archdiocese settled out of court, paying the full $150,000 requested by the families.

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