Lee: Father Bernard Lee

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Bernard Lee

Bernard Injou Lee

Father Bernard Lee

Priest, Archdiocese of Toronto.  Ordained 1983.  Late 1990s or early 2000 allegations of financial and sexual improprieties of some nature.  Whether or not these were investigated is unknown. In 2001 chaos erupted during Mass because Lee had been replaced by a  new priest.  In 2002 a parish audit showed the parish was over $600,000 in debt.

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Archbishops of Toronto from time of Father Lee’s ordination ); Gerald Emmett Carter  (29 April 1978 – 17 March 1990);  Aloysius Matthew Ambrozic † (17 March 1990 – – 16 December 2006 ) ; Thomas Christopher Collins (16 December 2006 – – )

Auxiliary Bishops of Toronto: Aloysius Matthew Ambrozic (26 March 1976 – Coadjutor Archbishop: 22 May 1986); Michael Pearse Lacey (03 May 1979 – 31 May 1993); Robert Bell Clune  (03 May 1979 to 27 December 1995); Leonard James Wall  (03 May 1979 — 25 February 1992); John Stephen Knight (27 Apr 1992 – 9 Apr 2000); Anthony Giroux Meagher † (30 April 1997 – 27 Apr il2002) Nicola de Angelis, C.F.I.C. (Auxiliary Bishop: 27 April 1992 to 28 December 2002);: Terrence Thomas Prendergast, S.J. ( 22 February 1995  – 30 June 1998);  Richard John Grecco (27 April 2002 – 11 July 2009) Peter Joseph Hundt ( 11 February 2006 – 01 March 2011)

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The following information is drawn from Canadian Catholic Church Directories (CCCD) which I have on hand, and media (M)


30 May 2017:  Administrator at Church of the Ascension, Parksville, Vancouver Island, BC

                                                                                                                                                     April 2017:  listed as interim replacement priest at Church of the Ascension, Parksville, Vancouver Island, BC (Diocese of Victoria)  On the Diocese of Victoria website he is listed as “retired from the Archdiocese of Toronto”)

                                                                                                                                                   2017:  address for a condo on Davenport Rd., Toronto (CCCD)

2016, 2015, 2014:  Pastor, St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church, Scarborough, Ontario (CCCD)

2015:  Retired (Retired priests – external link)

30 June 2013Farewell to Father Bernard Lee at Holy Martyrs of Japan Bradford, Ontario- going to Scarborough

2013:   Not listed in CCCD index

November 2012:   Father Bernard Lee at Martyrs of Japan as Associate

2010 2012 Associate Pastor at Christ The King Parish in West Toronto

2012, 2011, 2010:  Not listed in directory (CCCD)

2002: Parish audit determined the parish was over $600,00 in debt (M)

2002:  1155 Yonge St.,  Suite 304, Toronto, Ontario 416-934-0606 (address and phone number for Diocesan Centre – phone number for Archbishop’s office) (CCCD)

July 2001:  fighting at Masses after Lee was replaced by a new priest (M)

??? investigation of some sort into allegations of financial and sexual improprieties but no charges were laid (M)

1989 – 2001:  Sacred Heart of Jesus Korean Roman Catholic Church, Etobicoke, Ontario (the Church was formerly known as Saint Sosa Lee Roman Catholic Church (M)

2000, 1993: Pastor Saint Sosa Lee, Etobicoke, Ontario (CCCD)

1985-1986:  assisting at St. Margaret’s Roman Catholic Church, Toronto (Pastor Father William B. Firth) (CCCD)

1983:  ORDAINED

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Church audit finds trouble ; Financial records missing at Korean parish

Toronto Star

26 January 2002

Allen Woods

An audit of a Korean Catholic church plagued by seven months of infighting and mud-slinging reveals that financial documents were destroyed and parishioners’ donations were sent overseas, leaving the Etobicoke parish with a debt load of more than $600,000, says the Archdiocese of Toronto.

“This is a disturbing and significant finding,” said Suzanne Scorsone, director of communications for the archdiocese, which has jurisdiction over Sacred Heart of Jesus Korean Catholic Church.

A statement yesterday outlines findings of the probe into finances at the former St. Sosa Lee Korean Catholic Parish:

Parish financial records prior to Dec. 31, 2000, “were found to have been either destroyed or wrongly withheld.”

The parish carries a debt load of over $600,000, “which could have been cleared, given the rate of parishioner giving.”

Data also showed that, “while parishioners have been very generous in their giving, large sums have been sent overseas or elsewhere.”

Scorsone said the audit results, not normally publicized, were made public “as a matter of transparency.”

“The people of the parish have been very generous,” Scorsone said. “They need to know what their situation is.”

The audit, which Scorsone described as standard procedure when a priest is replaced, was completed this week.

St. Sosa Lee was thrown into the spotlight last July 1 after a fight broke out at mass over replacement of the parish priest, Father Bernard Lee. Parishioners loyal to Lee didn’t want him replaced, describing his role in an immigrant community as similar to that of a father in a family. The archdiocese declared the church desecrated after the “unprecedented” incident and closed it.

The church reopened in December with a new name- Sacred Heart of Jesus- but tensions hadn’t cooled under new priest Father Paul Oh. In late December, after a reported fist fight, 14 parishioners were escorted out by police and banned from mass there.

Last night, parishioner John Cho, 55, expressed weariness but not surprise about the report. “It’s very sad news,” he said. “I’m very sorry (to hear this), but we’ll be all right.”

Cho said parishioners must be more submissive to the decisions of the archdiocese

Bill Kim, who supported Lee, said he needed to hear more details of the audit before he could fully respond, but suggested the money allegedly sent overseas could be funds raised for charities in Korea, Mexico and other countries.

Kim accused the archdiocese of using the audit results to turn focus away from the December incidents.

The audit findings have been reported, but Scorsone would not say whether the archdiocese is pursuing legal action.

“Our hope is that this will clarify things and make for a new start with a new pastor.”

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Police brought into church dispute ; Parishioners forcibly removed during mass

Toronto Star

31 December 2011

Police moved into the light-filled nave of an Etobicoke church during morning mass yesterday and removed parishioners locked in a bitter dispute with the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto.

After an archdiocese representative pointed out more than a dozen people, police escorted them from Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic church. Outside they were served with trespass notices barring them from the premises.

“It was highly unusual, but Toronto police would not be going into a church service unless it came to the point where nothing else worked,” said Staff Sergeant Gord Hobbs, adding that officers removed their hats and entered the nave in small groups. “We didn’t want to appear as if storming a church.”

Yesterday’s banishments from the Korean Catholic church in the Islington and Evans Aves. area were the latest twist in a tangled drama.

For months, the archdiocese has been sparring with a group of parishioners upset with the transfer of former priest Bernard Lee and the arrival of a new priest, Paul Oh. There was a shouting match in the church on Christmas Eve, and police say fists flew Christmas Day.

Since last summer, there have been petitions and protests, ferocious scuffles and hurled insults at the St. Sosa Lee parish. After a violent episode on July 1, the church was declared desecrated and closed. The archdiocese replaced the parish with the Sacred Heart of Jesus mission in November, and the church reopened.

But the trouble didn’t end. Yesterday, 14 people were removed from the church, said Hobbs. They were told they’d be arrested if they returned to the property. “It’s another threat from the Toronto archdiocese,” said 50-year-old Doo-Hee Lee- no relation to pastor Lee- who was removed yesterday. “The most important thing in our life as Christian people is mass. They made us stop the mass. I’m so angry; they made a big mistake.”

Bill Kim, who was St. Sosa’s parish council chairman, was one of an estimated 18 others who were delivered trespass notices- they say on Christmas Eve- barring them from all church property west of the Don Valley Parkway, including Mississauga.

“I’m not sure if this is spiritual terrorism, but I think so,” Kim said. “It destroyed all the Christmas spirit of all these families.”

Archdiocese spokesperson Suzanne Scorsone, who led the police into the church, defended the action. “The archdiocese has made every possible gesture of patience and reconciliation,” she said. “But at a certain point it became clear that the gestures were not being accepted. So the archdiocese had to act.”

On July 1, Oh’s first day, a huge, violent melee broke out. The archdiocese’s chancellor, Monsignor John Murphy, was kicked, Scorsone said. Wearing yellow headbands, some parishioners hurled water across the sanctuary as well as insults, while others rushed the altar. “It was a disaster,” one parishioner said yesterday.

The event caused the church to be declared desecrated and closed. The church reopened after the Sacred Heart of Jesus mission was elevated to a parish in November.

“Anyone can have a difference of opinion,” Scorsone said, “but not by kicking and screaming, yelling obscenities, harassing people and desecrating a church.”

Patience reached a breaking point after yelling matches on Christmas Eve. Then there was a physical fight on Christmas Day, Hobbs said.

Kim said he and other proscribed parishioners have a problem with Oh and the way he conducts his pastoral work, and complained that Oh was brought in without even meeting Lee. “It was secretive,” Kim said.

Scorsone said “normal procedures were followed” in bringing Oh to the parish. She added that it’s normal for priests to be moved after five to six years. Lee began at the church in 1989. Several years ago, some members left the church, unhappy with Lee.

There was an investigation into allegations of financial and sexual improprieties but no charges were laid. Lee’s supporters say there was lingering bitterness over his crackdown on parishioners selling business products to other members of the congregation.

Lee, who is filling a temporary position at a parish in Stratford, expressed surprise when told about the banishments. “Literally, they cannot practise their faith,” he said yesterday. Lee added that the parishioners must solve their own problems, then declined further comment.

The banned members interviewed say they’ll stay home for now, except one who said he’ll disguise himself to attend mass.

“I’m sad it had to come to this, but there was no alternative,” Scorsone said. “But I’m hopeful too that now, finally, a new beginning will happen.”‘The most important thing in our life as Christian people is mass. They made us stop the mass. I’m so angry; they made a big mistake.’

Doo-Hee Lee, among those who were escorted from church

‘I’m sad it had to come to this, but there was no alternative. … Anyone can have a difference of opinion, but not by kicking and screaming, yelling obscenities, harassing people and desecrating a church.’

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Priest problem makes congregation one big unhappy mass

Kingston Whig-Standard

01 August 2001

TORONTO – The July 1 service at a Korean Roman Catholic Church began as a mass but quickly turned into a mess.

During the service, prayers turned into shouts and chants of “No more lies,” “Tell the truth,” and “No more racism.”

There were police and security guards on hand but still parishioners vented their anger at the Archdiocese of Toronto for transferring their priest by pushing and shoving.

Msgr. John Murphy says he was kicked while serving communion, an accusation denied by church officials who feel the city’s entire Korean community of some 80,000 people has been defamed by reports that priests were punched and kicked.

Bill Kim, community chairman at St. Sosa Lee, doesn’t deny that there was shouting and yelling at the service, or that water was thrown, but he doesn’t believe anyone was kicked or punched.

“I think that’s an exaggeration,” he said yesterday following a flurry of e-mails from the church. “But I don’t know, there were about 600 people. When Msgr. Murphy went into the crowd to distribute the host, there were a lot of people and movement.”

Catherine Osborne, communications officer for the archdiocese, said yesterday the situation is unfortunate but there was “violence at the mass.”

“I’ve spoken to some of the Koreans since then, even one this morning. I said `there was violence at the mass,’ and he said `there wasn’t any violence at the mass.’ But there certainly was.”

The dispute began in May when Rev. Bernard Lee told the congregation he was being transferred by the archdiocese to another parish. The church asked that he be allowed to remain for at least two more years, but the archdiocese refused.

Kim says parishioners feel like they’re being treated differently than other congregations because they’re Korean. The volatile situation worsened in June, says Kim, when Lee was told by the archdiocese to leave the community immediately.

“[The church] is a hierarchical organization, we accept that,” Kim says. “We’re all Catholic. We understand that the priests come and go from time to time … but the priest being asked to leave immediately?”

Following the July 1 incident, the archdiocese closed the church, saying the altar had been desecrated. It remains closed, with the 2,000 parishioners attending services, mostly in English, in nearby parishes.

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Archdiocese of Toronto shuts St. Sosa’s doors ; Members protest appointment of new parish priest

Toronto Star

09 July 2001

Heather Capanneli

The doors at a Korean Catholic church in Etobicoke remained locked yesterday, leaving parishioners who wanted to worship no choice but to attend other churches for Sunday mass.

St. Sosa Lee Roman Catholic Church near Islington Ave. and the Gardiner Expressway was the site of protest last week when parishioners who were unhappy with a new priest began loudly chanting prayers during the liturgy.

Some members of the parish objected to the new priest, Rev. Paul Oh, saying he is unfamiliar with Canadian culture. Some fear he may not be able to communicate with young people who are easily alienated from church practices. The former priest, Father Bernard Lee, was reassigned to a church in Angus, south of Barrie. The Catholic Church routinely rotates priests every 12 years.

The Archdiocese of Toronto, which could not be reached for comment, posted a letter on the door of the church in English that explained why the church would remain closed.

“The confident ecclesiastical authorities have declared St. Sosa Lee parish church to have been desecrated by the sacriligious actions of a group of parishioners during two Masses and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on Sunday July 1st, 2001,” the letter stated.

“As a result, the blessed sacrament has been removed from the church. The archdiocese also wants to avert the potential for violence and the possibility that innocent people might be hurt.”

Bill Kim, incoming chair of the parish council, said he translated the letter into Korean and posted it beside the English version, but it was removed by archdiocese security, who have been patrolling the area.

“The letter was removed because it’s private property,” said Stew Marshall, security agent for the archdiocese.

Kim says that while some parishioners went to neighbouring churches for the 11 a.m. mass, many newcomers wouldn’t understand the note and would simply find the doors locked.

“This is a very unique community and new immigrants who don’t read English will be very confused,” he said.

13 Responses to Lee: Father Bernard Lee

  1. P.K says:

    He is now associate pastor at Martrys of Japan. See for yourself.

    http://www.parishbulletins.com/bulletins/101/November%2018%202012.pdf

  2. Rosemary Ferrer says:

    Has this issue about Fr. B. Lee been resolved before he would be assigned to a new/different parish? I am quite concerned of these allegations because Fr. B. Lee will be coming to our parish this year, 2013. Hopefully with a clean slate…start all over again. I personally welcome him with hope and trust that the Holy Spirit has guided and inspired the decisions of the Archdiocese.

    I hope this is confidentially entrusted to you without any further repercussion to the person of Fr. Lee and the trust of the new parishioners he is going to serve in Jesus Name.

  3. Sylvia says:

    I’ve added the Church bulletin P.K. linked to. I’ve also added a more recent bulletin from Holy Martyrs of Japan which shows a farewell luncheon planned for Father Father Lee on 30 June 2013 – Father Lee is going to St. Boniface in Scarborough as Pastor. Is that where you are Rosemary?

  4. 1yellowknife says:

    Rosemary: If this is your parish, you have good reason for concern and caution. This is a bizarre, emotionally charged history. Be watchful and calm; maintain your spiritual health and …. wear shin splints. Ok, last recommendation in jest only.

  5. Claire I Fied says:

    in 2008 the Ontario court [CIBC v. Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation for the Diocese of Toronto and Father Bernard Lee, Defendants] ruled that funds CIBC was holding be paid into court and that interested parties be identified – doesn’t indicate the amount of funds; or what case that relates to (I haven’t delved deeper though/yet) http://canlii.ca/en/on/onsc/doc/2008/2008canlii31404/2008canlii31404.html

  6. G. Lee says:

    This fellow may now be in charge of Saint Boniface Catholic Parish in Scarborough.
    This information is on the RC Diocese of Toronto website, valid as of January 2015.
    The church is having trouble with their website for bandwidth problems.

  7. PK says:

    The latest word on Fr. Lee is he is leaving the parish at the end of Dec. He is officially retiring from parish ministry and doing mission work in Mexico and Peru.

    https://stbonifacechurchtoronto.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/st-boniface-church-bulletin-dec-20.pdf

  8. Sylvia says:

    Thanks PK.

    Interesting. I’ve updated the page with more recent information. He retired sometime in 2015. Seems he came out of retirement in the Archdiocese of Toronto to fill in a slot in the Diocese of Victoria?

    Does anyone know how old he is?

  9. JessieLee says:

    Hey, Fr Lee is now working at a diocese in Victoria, BC. Biggest alarm bells are he has immediately fired the long standing youth group leader, the oldest child in a huge family of devoted churchgoers at that parish. They’ve been going there for decades, and she’s worked hard to become the respected youth leader she is (was, I suppose.)

    He will also be the elementary school chaplain, is that a cause for concern? I didn’t see anything specifically about child abuse, but it’s upsetting that he was retired and is now running a parish with an elementary school attached. The diocese of Victoria has knowingly moved a sexual abuser into the same position, with an elementary school attached, so it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve made this move. Feeling concerned for the wellbeing of those families in the parish.

    • tim dooling says:

      It is important for Lay Catholics to know, that the Priest is NOT the boss of a Parish, but he is a servant to it. His word or orders are never final, Get a group of5 t9 10 people to sign a petition detailing your concers, and submit it to the Bishop, Keep a copy of it, and if you do not get a reply in 5 days release it to the news media- with more dtails. Tim Dooling

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