Clients are confident there is more information out in the public yet to be discovered
The Eganville Leader
Wednesday September 22, 2010
By Gerald Tracey News Editor
London — The lawyer representing 11 of the 13 victims in the Bernard Prince civil lawsuit proceedings is hoping more people will come forward with information about the former Roman Catholic church priest from Wilno.
“I am absolutely confi dent there are more victims of Prince who have not come forward,” Rob Talach of the London law firm of Ledroit Beckett, told the Leader last week. “You know, personal reasons, fear, shame, all the mechanisms that cause us to be dealing with these issues decades after the fact. There is no fault with the victim in doing that. Everybody has to live their own life.”
Mr. Talach was commenting following Mr. Prince’s release from a British Columbia prison on Tuesday, September 14 after serving three of his four-year sentence. The former Msgr. Prince, who had served in several parishes in Pembroke Diocese before going to the Vatican, was sentenced in January 2008 after pleading guilty to 13 counts of sexual assault against 13 male victims over a period of 20 years. The assaults took place at his Wilno-area cottage and at his apartment in Ottawa.
“I’ve seen victims wait until their own parents have passed because they were so religious, or they are just not in the right place yet to deal with it,” Mr. Talach said in reference to people hesitating to step forward. “There is always fear of public disclosure too and I want the victims to know that these cases can be dealt with very confidentially if that is what is requested.”
He said his clients are confident there is more information out in the public to be discovered.
“Be it from more victims to people they told or priests who knew,” he said. “There are pieces of the puzzle that are not all found yet and really that is the big push for us right now, to complete that puzzle. And I think there is a certain product to Pembroke Diocese being many small communities that there is a hesitancy among the public and the parishioners and even some of the unnamed victims to come forward.”
Mr. Talach said he couldn’t emphasize enough the importance of others coming forward and how vital their information will be to the case.
“There are many unanswered questions about Prince that my clients don’t feel satisfactory answers have been given,” he said.
“Why did he leave Oka after five years of attendance there and not take orders. He was at the monastery helping out cheese makers. There are questions swirling around his removal from Arnprior and transferral to the Vatican. There are questions surrounding his shift of parishes in Pembroke in the 1960s. We understand there might have been a complaint made about him.”
Lawyer believes there are people alive with information about Prince
Mr. Talach said there are people who are still alive who have this information and he wants to hear from them.
“If there are any parishioners sitting out there who know something and think they are doing the right thing in protecting the church here, they are not. The right thing is, if I can quote the Bible, The truth shall set you free.
“I mean, we need to know what happened here for reasons not only of figuring out the pieces in helping these gentlemen but also for learning how we can avoid these types of things again in the future.”
Mr. Talach said his constant theme is “we know you’re out there.
“We just need to hear from them.” Mr. Talach said the effect of abuse is devastating on the victims.
As for Mr. Prince’s release from prison, Mr. Talach said more advance notice would have been appropriate in this situation. One of the victims he called to tell was taken by surprise and needed some time to deal with the news.
“Some of these guys might want to book counselling to correspond with it,” he said. “Getting a phone call the day before I think was surprising for you.”
In April 2008, Mr. Talach’s firm launched a $22 million civil suit against Mr. Prince and Pembroke Diocese. To date he has settled seven of the actions and has eight remaining to resolve. While 13 victims obtained criminal convictions there were others identified by the police or self identified who didn’t come on board for one reason or another in the criminal proceedings but who did proceed civilly.
Mr. Talach is in the process of booking trial dates in Pembroke for the remaining lawsuits, but said the cases won’t likely go to court before 2012.
“Everything we need to get it to trial is practically done,” he said. “Everybody has been questioned and examined and the necessary steps have been carried out so we’re just waiting for trial dates. Each one is an individual case.”
While the conviction is against Mr. Prince, the lawsuit is against the once highly respected priest and Pembroke Diocese. Mr. Talach said evidence of what the diocese knew and when it knew would be helpful in his cases. “I think that we have all seen from the historical record that is being exposed right now that almost the default position of Roman Catholic dioceses around the world was suppression and cover up,” he said. “So if that’s the case with Prince, and I say if that’s the case before 1990, we know it is definitively a case with Prince after 1990, no question. If that’s the case with Prince earlier than that, we need to know because that’s going to go directly to the diocese’s liability. “And it doesn’t just go to their liability, it goes to the issue of whether they are liable beyond just negligence into what’s called punitive damages. In other words, they would be effectively fined within the lawsuit for their conduct, for covering up.”
Mr. Talach said he finds it hard to believe that this type of volume of abuse over this time period of time would not have made it to the ears of the church hierarchy in one form or another. “You place that suspicion on the template of his career and you say, boy they were pretty good at keeping this guy out of Pembroke. There’s a certain point in his career where he is officially assigned to duties outside the diocese and again you wonder aloud, why was that.”
He said he has heard there were certain families in the Wilno area that would not let their boys go to Father Prince’s cottage to swim.
“So when you hear stuff like that, you think aloud and say, this is a widely known but an unspoken secret about Bernard Prince and it’s time that all the pieces come forward.”
While no one will ever know the true number of males who were assaulted by Mr. Prince, Mr. Talach said he always works on the tip of the iceberg theory, that there are more.
There is no magic formula, but he said in the London Diocese where a priest had 47 convictions of assaulting girls, there have now been 80 self identified victims.
But he said one doesn’t get that type of disclosure when you have male victims, especially in smaller communities.
“I think there is more of a taboo when the assault is in a homosexual, same-sex contact,” he said. “That further inhibits victims from coming forward.”