The Guelph Mercury
Saturday 28 July 2012
When serial killer Karla Homolka made a deal with the Crown attorney in which she agreed to testify against her co-accused, Paul Bernardo, she literally got away with murder.
It was after this 1993 agreement, termed the “deal with the devil,” that incriminating videos clearly showed her involvement in her sister’s death were found in the ceiling structure of the house of horrors where the murders of two other girls were carried out.
This legal deal was not unique. Recently, we learned that the defence attorney for Rev. Jose Silva, a Catholic priest in Hamilton accused of sexual assault, and the Crown attorney’s office in Hamilton struck a clandestine deal that allowed Silva to return to his native Brazil where he is now in therapy, with his status as a priest on hold.
When I once asked a criminal lawyer, a member of our family, how he could in good conscience defend someone he knew was guilty, his answer was clear. His job, he told me, was to offer the best defence possible within the law. And if he was successful in having his obviously guilty client walk free, then it was up to legislators to change the law.
It’s impossible to compare the significance of a murder trial with that of a sexual abuse victim. But consider this. I was told by a Crown attorney that for every victim of child abuse reported, there are 10 others that have gone unreported.
So these are my questions. How many victims might there be in this Hamilton case? And even if there is just one victim, that person’s life has been changed unalterably.
In most cases, sexual abuse victims will never realize their full potential in life, and the effects of the abuse will affect generations to follow. I say this because their pattern of behaviour has been changed and the way that they treat others will not be as it was naturally intended.
Some sex victims become abusers; others will most definitely treat people differently. Further, several victims of such crimes later take their own lives or turn to drugs in an effort to cope with this indescribable violation.
Just ask the 10,000 members of SNAP, the Survivors’ Network of Those Abused by Priests, a group based in Chicago whose members are worldwide. Look them up on the internet if you want to read stories of living hell. I am a member of that organization.
Now a few questions need to be asked regarding the Silva arrangement.
A July 23 Guelph Mercury editorial (‘Priest Dumping’ Case Troubling) states that Silva was “in the Hamilton diocese on something of a loan from a diocese in his country.”
Does this sound familiar? How often have we heard about wayward priests who have been moved from one diocese to another, not just in our own country but around the world? Sweep it under the table. Hide it and it no longer exists.
When I was deeply entangled in my own sexual abuse story, I was told by a Catholic bishop that sexual abuse could never happen again in the church, after people of my generation pass on, because there are different protocols in place now. Really?
Another question is how is the Crown attorney able to make questionable deals with defence attorneys? Hasn’t this happened too often? Isn’t it time for legislators to step in and prevent such arrangements?
What protection or compensation or rehabilitation is now given to the 18-year-old musician, the alleged victim in the Silva case? What about the possibility of others linked to Silva, both here and in his native Brazil?
The governments of every country have a moral obligation to protect victims of abuse. From what I have seen and experienced thus far, this has not been the case.
The public has a duty here also to take a stand, speak out against these heinous crimes and protect our children at all costs.
Ken Hills is a Guelph author and was a youth victim of sexual abuse by an Ontario Catholic priest. His recent book, Requiem for Black Shoes, is a novel based on his experience as a survivor of that abuse.