Priest, Archdiocese of Edmonton Alberta. Ordained 1962. Allegations of sexual misconduct involving adult female parishioners over span of 20 years. Trips to Southdown to deal with his ‘problem. At least one allegation from a 17-year-girl.
11 December 2014: Committed to stand trial in Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. September 2015 – charges stayed.
THIS PAGE IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Archbishops of Edmonton Archdiocese from time of Laisnez’ ordination: John Hugh MacDonald (05 March 1938 – 11 August 1964 ); Anthony Jordan, O.M.I. (11 August 1964 – – 02 July 1973); Joseph Neil MacNeil (02 July 1973 – – 07 Jun2 1999); Thomas Christopher Collins (07 June 1999 – – 16 December 2006 to Archbishop of Toronto, Ontario); Richard William Smith (22 March 2007 – – )
Anthony Jordan, O.M.I served as Coadjutor Archbishop from April 1955 until his installation as Archbishop in August 1964.
Next courtdate: Charges stayed. 0
1-02 September 2015 : TRIAL, Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench ( 1A Sir Winston Churchill Square , Edmonton, AB); (20 April 2015: pre-trial conference (NOT open to the public); 06 February 2015: 09:30 am, in arraignment court, Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench ( 1A Sir Winston Churchill Square , Edmonton, AB); 23 January 2015: for arraignment” in (Edmonton? ) Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench; following prelim Committed to stand trial in Court of Queen’s Bench; ; 11 December 2014: 09:30 am, Preliminary Hearing, Sherwood Park courthouse, Alberta (190 Chippewa Rd.,)
31 August 2015: BLOG Charges stayed?
The following information is drawn from available Canadian Catholic Church Directories (CCCD)
2017: Not listed in CCD index
September 2015: Charges stayed.
11 December 2014: Committed to stand trial in Court of Queen’s Bench
May 2014: Charged (M)
2010: Not listed in directory (CCCD)
2002: 2055, ch. des Quatre Bourgeois, Ste. Foy, Quebec (CCCD)
2000, 1999, 1998, 1997: address for diocesan centre, Edmonton (CCCD)
1996, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1992: Pastor, St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church, Edmonton, Alberta (CCCD)
1991: address listed as c/o Our Lady of the Foothills, Hinton Alberta (CCCD)
1985-86: Pastor, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Sherwood Park, Alberta (CCCD)
– was probably at St. Pius X until at least 1976 (SV)
1973-74, 1971-72: Pastor, St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church, Edmonton, Alberta (CCCD)
1968-69: Listed as Vocations Director with address at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta (CCCD)
1967: teaching Latin and Philosophy at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Edmonton, Alberta (CCCD)
Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Edmonton (CCCD)
Teen suffered at the hands of trusted priest
Letter to the Editor
11 November 1997
I commend Tom Barrett and The Journal for their balanced articles regarding the Catholic Church’s handling of sexual abuse by priests; however, I am disappointed that complete information regarding Albert Laisnez’s actions could not be printed.
I was only 17 years old when Laisnez began to make sexual advances toward me and the acts committed against me were far more grave than those described in the article.
I reported my experiences to public officials after having initially reported them to Catholic officials in the summer of 1996.
I find it appalling that it has taken an investigation and subsequent series of articles by a secular newspaper for the leadership of the Catholic Church to publicly acknowledge Laisnez’s problem.
To the dismay of all conscious Catholics, Laisnez has been passively supported by the leaders of our church in that they have known about his actions for years and have continued to allow him to be involved in parish ministry.
Had the leaders of the Catholic Church acted to remove Laisnez, I would have been spared suffering at the hands of this trusted adult in a position of power.
I have been a practising Catholic my entire life and have been involved in parish music ministry since I was 14 years old. As a young person, I looked to the Catholic Church for moral guidance, spiritual nurturing and a sense of community. Church was my safe place.
It was in this trusting and naive atmosphere that Laisnez was able to win my trust as an adolescent. I greatly admired Fr. Albert for his kindness, enthusiasm and personable manner. He helped to make the teachings of Christ come alive for me. Now, however, I can only see Laisnez as a calculating person disguised as a holy, trustworthy priest.
May these beginnings of openness and truth-telling on the part of the leaders of the local Catholic Church that have resulted from this public exposure of their handling of these cases help to bring about changes that will enable the innocent and trusting in Catholic churches to be genuinely protected.
The priest who stepped over the line; A charismatic priest drew a series of complaints about his relationships with married women; Part 2 Of 2
22 September 1997
In this final story of a two-part series, reporter Tom Barrett examines how the Catholic church has dealt with sexual misconduct by priests.
“Whenever sexual abuse is reported, appropriate steps must be taken to ensure that it will not reoccur, and to prevent other similar cases of sexual abuse.”
— Edmonton Archdiocese guidelines for sexual abuse cases, Feb. 1, 1993
Rev. Albert Laisnez seemed like a gift from God to the people of St. Agnes parish.
The charismatic priest came to the city Catholic church in 1992, shortly after the previous pastor, Rev. Bill White, pleaded guilty to one charge of indecent assault.
Father Bill was a popular, well-respected priest and people were still coming to terms with the fact he had repeatedly molested a teenage boy nearly 30 years before.
The parish needed a lift and they got it from Father Albert’s open, caring manner, from his wonderful sermons, his long, loving hugs and the way he listened and responded to people.
The 53-year-old priest was particularly encouraging to the men and women interested in organizing study groups into the sexual abuse of children. Eventually, seven groups were formed with more than 80 participants. He proved to be a tireless advocate for both victims and reformers.
That’s why it was so devastating to learn that Laisnez had his own problems with sexual misconduct. Not with boys, but with adult women. He was a priest who drew vulnerable, married women to him like a powerful magnet.
He left behind a trail of broken hearts that began long before his arrival at St. Agnes in 1992. After Laisnez left, Father Mike McCaffrey, chancellor of the archdiocese, told parishioners there had been complaints about Laisnez’s relationships with adult women in other parishes he had worked in for the past 20 years — Hinton,Sherwood Parkand Pius X inEdmonton.
Laisnez’s story is not unique. After more than a decade of scandals aroundNorth Americainvolving child sex abuse by priests, revelations about relationships between priests and adult women may now move to centre stage, some observers say.
Rev. John Heagle, aSeattlepriest who has worked with abuse victims and priest offenders, says such relationships will likely form “the next wave” of abuse cases involving priests.
Edmonton Archbishop Joseph MacNeil says he was aware Laisnez “had problems.”
“I knew that he had some difficulties, some problems,” says MacNeil. “It didn’t seem to me at the time to be all that serious. We asked him to go to Southdown (a treatment centre inOntariofor priests).
“Their assessment was very positive, and so we thought that whatever personal problems he had were resolved.”
No one at St. Agnes was warned about Laisnez’s history.
“We didn’t think it was that important or that relevant,” the archbishop explained. “Any more than if a teacher or a journalist had been involved in an impropriety that didn’t seem all that serious.”
But the problems resurfaced in June 1995. A woman told Rev. Mike McCaffrey, chancellor of the archdiocese, about a disturbing incident.
The woman said that in October 1994, Laisnez had hugged her in the confessional and then rubbed his body against hers until he ejaculated. The woman refused to talk to The Journal.
McCaffrey confirms that the woman made the complaint to him and that he talked to Laisnez about it. The only disagreement, McCaffrey says, was over who was the aggressor in the encounter.
Regardless of who was the aggressor, McCaffrey adds, Laisnez’s behaviour was unacceptable.
Despite Laisnez’s history, officials did not remove him from the parish for another 14 months, or stop him from hearing confessions.
During that time at least two other women came forward with complaints to McCaffrey. One told how Laisnez once got an erection during extended hugging. The other woman, fromSherwood Park, alleged past sexual misbehaviour by the priest.
Sheila Williams, an active member of the parish who was heavily involved in the sex abuse committee and worked closely with Father Albert running the study groups, says Archbishop MacNeil must shoulder part of the blame.
“I’ve always believed the bishop was pastor of the flock. How could he place such a man here without warning anybody?” she asks. “The church needs to be a safe place. If you’re not safe in the confessional, it’s intolerable.”
Another woman in Williams’ support group, whose son was molested by a priest years ago, said finding out about Laisnez’s misconduct killed any remaining faith she had in church leaders.
“I was just sick,” Therese Cor says. “I thought `How could this have happened?’ This has to stop. This was the final betrayal. I want you to understand we came to the media as an absolute last resort after trying every possible channel within the church,” she says.
McCaffrey says it’s now clear church officials should have acted more quickly, but suggests it’s easy to criticize after the fact.
“Those are judgment calls, tough calls,” he says. “I talked to him right away and he said he had it under control.”
But a woman who worked as a pastoral assistant with Laisnez before St. Agnes disagrees. The woman, who spoke on the condition that she not be named, says he led married women on romantically.
“Father Albert needs constant adulation and he gets it from the women,” she says in an interview. “These women would bare their souls to him and he would take advantage. His line was — `I can’t help it if the women chase me.’ ”
She says she never witnessed explicit sexual contact with any of the women. Laisnez engaged in extended, enthusiastic hugging, she says. In one case, she interrupted him as he hugged a married woman in his bedroom.
The former pastoral assistant says their differences exploded in a final confrontation.
“I told him he was not respecting the sacraments, because marriage is a sacrament. I said he couldn’t go on acting the way he was, leading women on.
“He was an excellent priest in many ways,” she admits. “Certainly the people flooded to the church to be with him. He made them want to be involved.”
His dynamic qualities may be one of the reasons church leaders were slow to remove him from St. Agnes, Williams suggests.
In 1996, she decided to take matters into her own hands because Laisnez was about to be transferred toRed Deerand hadn’t acknowledged his misconduct.
On July 3 of that year, she mailed 83 letters to members of the sex abuse study groups, reporting that he had admitted sexual improprieties with women in the parish.
The letter sparked a dramatic showdown.
That Sunday, Laisnez stood up at each mass and announced he was a sinner. He asked members of the parish council to stand beside him as he admitted engaging in excessive hugging and kissing with women.
Laisnez also said he was humiliated by the letter, although he acknowledged it was accurate.
Many churchgoers were enraged at Williams and the women they suspected had been hugging and kissing their beloved priest.
Keith Turton, director of public education at Edmonton’s Sexual Assault Centre, says people often fail to appreciate such relationships can be a form of abuse.
“It’s very definitely not a relationship between equals,” he says. “What you’re dealing with is someone with spiritual power, someone who has moral authority.”
Turton says the best analogy is the therapist who becomes sexually involved with a vulnerable patient, although he believes sexual involvement between a priest and a parish woman is “a far greater violation.
“There is much more trust placed in the individual because they represent God,” he says.
The St. Agnes parish council reacted by closing down the sexual abuse study-group program, saying no more work needed to be done. The council also told Williams’ group, Parents of Victims Sexually Abused by Clergy, that they couldn’t meet in the church any more.
“The manner in which the facilitator/contact person acted, by sending out a damaging letter, had led to a feeling of mistrust in the individual’s capacity to continue in the ministry,” the council wrote about her in a letter.
After Father Albert’s public admission, the archdiocese reconsidered plans to transfer him toRed Deer. As part of the review, Laisnez took a series of psychological tests.
While he was taking those tests, another woman from another parish stepped forward on July 23 of last year with serious allegations. A few days later the transfer was cancelled and Laisnez was sent back to the Southdown treatment centre.
He has completed the Southdown program. He is now inOttawa, attending university and receiving therapy, McCaffrey says.
The Journal contacted Laisnez, but he declined to comment, saying his lawyer advised against it.
Not all of the women who fell for the priest are bitter towards him. One says she loves Father Albert.
“I know that I wanted those hugs,” she says. “I felt like he was doing me a favour.” In fact, she says she was most upset when he told her their hugging would have to stop because of the first woman’s complaint.
“He said it was his weakness,” she recalls.
She thanks the church for paying for her counselling and Laisnez for helping her deal with her own marriage.
“Yes, he’s left behind a trail of devastation, including me,” she says. “I’ve been depressed, but I’ve swung from hating him back to loving and missing him.”
And what if he appeared at her door tonight, saying he wanted to get involved?
“That would be great,” she says.