Posted: Aug 24, 2012 5:20 PM AT
Last Updated: Aug 24, 2012 6:35 PM AT
The Diocese of Bathurst says 80 out of 86 victims participated in the reconciliation process and accepted compensation. (CBC)
The Catholic Diocese of Bathurst has taken out a half-page newspaper ad, defending itself against criticism over a conciliation process offered to 80 sexual abuse victims.
An Ontario lawyer and some of the victims, abused by clerics between the 1950s and 1980s, have argued there wasn’t enough transparency in the process, but in the newspaper statement, the diocese maintains it did everything right.
It hired retired Supreme Court of Canada justice Michel Bastarache a couple of years ago to oversee the process, which included compensation and apologies.
“Eighty out of 86 victims of sexual abuse by Levi Noel, and other clerics of the Bathurst Diocese, participated in the process and accepted awards made, representing a 93 per cent success rate, one of the highest ever achieved in such a process,” the statement, signed by Most Rev. Valery Vienneau, the bishop-administrator of Bathurst states.
“The Ontario lawyer who now publicly criticizes the process and the diocesan effort represented a number of people who successfully participated in that process and who, with his counsel, accepted awards,” Vienneau states.
Some of the victims are in the process of launching a lawsuit.
Nothing to hide
“They suggest that their lawsuit is about seeing that further details come to light, intimating that they believe the diocese is hiding something or has denied its failures in acknowledging mishandling of Noel and others. This is simply incorrect,” states Vienneau.
“When I initiated the reconciliation process, I had learned the extent of Noel’s abusive actions. I publicly acknowledged the failures of my deceased predecessor bishops to recognize and curb his abuse. It led me to extend the process to others known and unknown in an effort to be fair to all victims.”
Levi Noel, who worked on the Acadian Peninsula for 30 years, was sentenced in 2010 to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to 22 sex-related offences.
The victims were boys between the ages of eight and 16 at the time of the abuse, the court heard.
“We’ve done what we could, we do believe, as far as, you know, having a helping hand for the victims, offering them the counselling and compensation with the process that we do have,” the diocese’s vicar general, Father Wesley Wade told CBC News on Friday.
“Our concern was for the victims. We did what we could. And also to respect our diocese financially. So I think that process has helped us tremendously,” he said.
“It’s a very painful experience of course. And most of these cases were many years ago. But we have to take our responsibility — both for the victims to respect them, compensation, financially-speaking, and counselling,” Wade said.
“But also we’ve got a process, a protocol, to avoid these situations in the future as much as we can,” he said.
Similar process in Moncton
Ontario lawyer Robert Talach urged victims to choose litigation over church-sponsored conciliation, arguing confidential payments only allow the diocese to keep the abuse shrouded in secrecy.
Several people in the small, southeastern New Brunswick village came forward earlier this year to talk about being abused by Léger.
The priest died in 1990 and was never convicted of any crimes.
Archbishop André Richard apologized in March to anyone who was abused by Léger