Ontario victims describe consequences of priest’s abuse

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17 September 2013  5:30 pm

SEAN CHASE | QMI AGENCY

PEMBROKE, Ont. – A local priest who pleaded guilty to fondling boys decades ago not only took away his victims’ innocence but their faith, court heard Tuesday.

The five men who Father Daniel Miller abused read victim impact statements. The boys, some from broken or impoverished homes, were between the ages of nine and 13 when their trust in the priest was violated.

“For the last 43 years I have kept a dark secret which I couldn’t have told anyone,” said one of the victims, whose identity is protected by a publication ban.

Miller earlier pleaded guilty to five counts of gross indecency and indecent assault against a male. Ordained in Renfrew in 1969, Miller served in parishes in Arnprior, Deep River, Eganville and Petawawa before 1999. The abuse involving the boys occurred between 1969 and 1980.

During Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, the victims expressed their anger not only at the priest but the church for not taking steps to report the allegations to the authorities.

“How could the Catholic church allow these men of the cloth to commit this against me,” asked one of the victims, who was nine years old when Miller befriended his family, adding he has since left the church. “The extent of the abuse cannot be denied or trivialized anymore. The Catholic church has not been motivated enough to rid itself of these abusers.”

A mother took the stand to recount how Miller was accepted into her family because the Catholic church was considered the centre of the community back then. She explained that the priest used kindness and generosity to gain access to her sons.

“I should have protected my children,” she testified. “They lost their innocence. Their childhood was stolen from them. They kept their silence for decades as I allowed Dan Miller to be part of our lives.”

Defence lawyer Robert Carew said his client, who has no previous criminal record and has followed his conditions since his arrest, is a suitable candidate for community supervision and should be considered for a conditional sentence to be followed by a period of probation.

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, Miller faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence, but the Crown is seeking a nine-month sentence.

The judge will hand down his decision Nov. 28.

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