Church expert backs up Christian Brothers’ autonomy

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The Telegram (St. John’s, Newfoundland)

Published on June 13, 2016

Published on June 13, 2016

Canon law expert Fr. Francis Morrissey (left) chats with Archbishop Martin Currie and vicar general Fr. Francis Puddister (right) at the Mount Cashel civil trial Monday. — Photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram

An expert on canon law testifying for the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corp. of St. John’s says historical Vatican documentation backs up the Christian Brothers’ autonomy.

Father Francis Morrissey, a canon law professor at St. Paul University in Ottawa, took the witness stand Monday in the Mount Cashel civil trial at Newfoundland Supreme Court. His testimony continues today.Reviewing documents tracing back to the late 19th and early 20th century, he said the archbishop could not visit and intervene in the internal affairs of the lay order Christian Brothers.

The Brothers, said Morrissey, were granted a special exemption as they spread out beyond Ireland to places that included Newfoundland and the U.S.

Morrissey is also a retired appeals judge in the Catholic church’s internal judicial system that has rules based on interpretation of canon laws originally written in Latin.

Victims of physical and sexual abuse by certain Christian Brothers during the late 1940s to early 1960s contend the church should be held liable for what happened to them at the St. John’s boys’ orphanage. There are four test cases in the lawsuit, representing about 60 claimants.

When asked by victims’ lawyer Geoff Budden about the archbishop’s handling of a 1954 incident in which a fired Mount Cashel employee had gone to the Palace with information that another employee — not a Christian Brother — committed an immoral act on a boy, Morrissey said the chain of command was followed.

That is, the archbishop had a responsibility to respond to the complaint, but had to do so through the Christian Brothers’ ranks, and summoned the Brother Superior of the orphanage. (The court has already heard that the employee the allegations referred to was told to stay away from the orphanage.)

In a document related to the incident, it was noted the Christian Brother Superior stated the charges were denied as malicious lies.

“He is following the rule exactly that was set out,” Morrissey said of the archbishop’s actions. “He brings in the Brother who was in charge of the place and asks him to look after it.”

In the event the Brother had refused the summons, the archbishop could go higher through the Christian Brothers’ hierarchy and finally to the Holy See at the Vatican.

Follow live tweets @bsweettweets from the courtroom.

Email: [email protected]

 

Earlier story:

Canon law expert testifies for church at Mount Cashel civil trial

An expert on canon law testifying for the RC Episcopal Corp. of St. John’s says historical Vatican documentation backs up the Christian Brothers’ autonomy.

Fr. Francis Morrissey, noted for being a canon law professor at St. Paul University, Ottawa, is on the witness stand today in the Mount Cashel civil trial at Newfoundland Supreme Court.

Reviewing documents tracing back to the late 19th and early 20th century, he said the archbishop could not visit and intervene in the internal affairs of the lay order Christian Brothers.

The Brothers, said Morrissey, were granted a special exemption as they spread out beyond Ireland to places that included Newfoundland and the U.S.

Victims of physical and sexual abuse by certain Christian Brothers during the period late 1940s to early 1960s contend the church should be held liable for what happened to them at the infamous St. John’s boys’ orphanage.

Follow live tweets @Bsweettweets from the courtroom.

Email: [email protected]

2 Responses to Church expert backs up Christian Brothers’ autonomy

  1. Sylvia says:

    There is much that I could say here regarding Father Morrissey. Suffice for now due to re-post in part a blog from ten years ago:

    Father Morrissey is the former dean of Canon Law at Ottawa’s St. Paul University (formerly seminary), a friend of Father Charles MacDonald from MacDonald’s seminary days, and along with Colin McKinnon and others was a founding member of Ottawa’s Thomas More Lawyer’s Guild. Morrissey enjoys world-wide repute as an expert in canon law and has provided canonical assistance to a number of dioceses rocked by sex abuse scandals.

    Morrissey has also raised eyebrows with his beliefs that child molesters are not “moral degenerates,” that child molestation is akin to alcoholism which was once viewed as sinful and is now understood to be a disease, that sexual molestation isn’t grounds to defrock a priest, and that it is not “responsible stewardship” to throw away the $250,000 investment that goes into cost of ordaining a Catholic priest

    If that’s not bad enough, in an Ottawa Sun article Morrissey actually seemed to defend paedophiles with the comment: “Who is totally pure? Who is not a sinner?” According to the article he also said that distinctions have to be made between events that happened 20 years ago and “something that’s happening now.”

    Unbelievable? I think so. I think the victims and their families might think so too.

    Before closing I must say that I’ve been wondering lately if Father Morrissey was instrumental in any way, shape or form in waiving the pre-requisites in Theology to allow Jacques Leduc to study canon law? It’s entirely possible isn’t it?

  2. Sylvia says:

    And an interesting and I believe necessary addendum to the above. The following was blogged 12 August 2006:

    The Morrissey/King documents

    It seems that back in 1986/1987/1988 Father Frank Morrissey was busily helping the world to interpret the new Code of Canon Law. To that end it is known that he had been invited by someone or other to address a group of clergy in the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall, and that he was working on a draft presentation for the bishops of Canada.

    Jeffrey King, a late vocation to the priesthood (age 58 when ordained) but then still very much an Ottawa lawyer, apparently lent a hand in some fashion and provided legal input from a secular perspective.

    An area of great concern to the pair seemed to be that of ensuring that bishops could not be legally compelled to disclose any statements made by suspect clerical sexual predators in the presence of the bishop.

    As I see it, the object of the exercise was to circumvent the law of the land in such a fashion that a bishop could legally withhold information which could see an alleged clerical molester convicted in a court of law. Why else resort to such convoluted measures?

    The following paragraphs then are excerpts of a Jeffrey King document which were read into the record during the examination of Bishop Durocher:

    “…in my opinion it is essential that there be a thorough understanding by the Bishops of the laws of privileged evidence in our courts.

    “Evidence that is created either verbally, visually or by way of written record that is communicated to a lawyer in anticipation of litigation is privileged information. There is no law in Canada that will compel disclosure of such evidence. It is therefore essential that a situation be created whereby no Bishop or diocesan authority could be compelled to appear in court to give evidence of any statement given either verbally or in writing relating to a denunciation.”

    “Under the laws in effect in each Province in Canada no one can any longer expect that there is any privileged information within the church and this would include what is called Secret Archives of any diocese. I suggest that paragraph 3 replace paragraph 2 in that the diocese should provide the accused cleric immediately with a trial lawyer who is distinct from the diocese’s attorney.”

    “Any evidence obtained by way of a statement from the accused could not then be compelled as evidence in any court of law.”

    “By having the lawyers attend such a meeting the laws of evidence would then apply and the information obtained could then be considered privileged information. At all times the diocesan lawyer should be made a member of such an inquiry in order that the information would remain privileged.”

    How terribly disgusting! That Roman Catholic canon lawyers and lawyers would stoop so low to protect clerical sexual predators or whatever is beyond comprehension.

    I must add that Jacques Leduc was a lawyer for the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall and in that capacity would have sat in on these sessions.

    So, can you see how insane this gets when it comes to Cornwall? Just think of it: an alleged paedophile bishop conducting a session with an alleged paedophile priest in the presence of an alleged paedophile lawyer/canon lawyer, the latter presumably sitting in to ensure any damning utterances from the priest would remain privileged, and a known homosexual paedophile trial lawyer distinct from the alleged paedophile diocesan lawyer retained by the diocese for the alleged clerical molester.

    What a lark! And this inquiry is mandated to conduct a research project on the response of , public institutions to allegations of historical abuse? What, oh what can I say?

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