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Canadian Jesuits plan to publicly identify ‘credibly accused’ priests

17 December 2019

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

Canada’s Jesuits are going to do what no other Catholic Church organization in the country has done before – release the names of “credibly accused” priests.

Victims of clergy abuse within the Catholic Church in Canada have been demanding full transparency within the Church including the names of those who have been “credibly accused” of abuse.

Rev. Erik Oland, provincial of the Jesuits of Canada, said the Jesuits have hired an outside firm to investigate and review historic files going back up to 60 years that include the names of priests that have already been made public in either court cases and lawsuits and also those who have never been publicly named, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported on Dec. 17.

The Globe and Mail quoted Father Oland, who is based in Montreal, as saying, “We’re really making a decision to be pro-active. We’re not waiting to be forced out from under cover. … The Jesuit order, the Catholic church … people with religious convictions are doing important work for our world, so we don’t want to keep carrying this yoke … over our shoulders.”

Jose Sanchez, director of communications for Jesuits Canada, confirmed to Canadian Catholic News that Father Oland spoke to the Globe and Mail in Toronto recently about what the Jesuits in Canada plan to do with its review of past abuse cases.

Father Oland told the Globe and Mail that “a list of names and where the priests worked will be made public by January 2021, or before.”

The increasing push for being as transparent as possible in identifying clergy and church workers who may have been involved in the abuse of minors in Canada has gained traction since more and more revelations about abuse in the Catholic Church have been released in the United States – specifically since a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania found priests abused more than 1,000 children was released in 2018.

What the Jesuits are planning to do in Canada is similar to what the Jesuits have done in the United States.

But the issue of publicly naming the “credibly accused” is a much-debated issue within the Catholic Church in Canada, and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has urged caution in making that decision, leaving it up to individual dioceses. So far, none have gone as far to name the “credibly accused”.

“Bishops recognize that while the current procedure offers very clear guidelines on their pastoral and civil responsibilities, there remains an important question to consider related to the publication of names of the ‘credibly accused’ who have not been charged and convicted,” the CCCB said in a Nov. 15 statement.

“It is evident that a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer cannot be given to such a complex matter when seen through the lens of privacy laws at the federal and provincial levels, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the well-being of victims-survivors, some of whom do not wish for the names of their offenders to be published for fear they themselves will be re-victimized or identified.

“Bishops are obliged to weigh all of these factors as they discern their individual responses to this question,” the CCCB  said.

A first of its kind publicly-released review of historic cases of sexual abuse within a Canadian Catholic Church diocese has been done in Vancouver, but the review made public on Nov. 22 only released the names of priests who have been criminally convicted or were named in already settled lawsuits.

The public report does not name “credibly accused” priests, although the committee within the diocese that worked on the report recommended that the “credibly accused” be named as well.

The Archdiocese of Edmonton will publish next month revised policies and protocols on abuse prevention and reporting. The plan follows a pledge made by Archbishop Richard Smith in 2018, after the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops released its new guidelines on Protecting Minors from Sexual Abuse.

And recently the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests group released its own list of the “credibly accused” within the Diocese of London, Ont. In response the London Diocese basically confirmed what was released by the survivor group.

“As a Diocese, we wish to express our utmost regret for the suffering that has been incurred as a result of clergy sexual abuse. As we review the list published by SNAP, we can confirm that it appears to be substantially correct,” a statement released by the Diocese of London said.

“We cannot confirm its accuracy in its entirety. Certain cases, for instance, were resolved by the Religious Orders themselves. We can confirm, however, that there are four other priests against whom allegations involving minors have been made. None of the priests continues to work within the Diocese or elsewhere in the Church,” the statement said.

-With files from Grandin Media