Montreal archdiocese calls on retired judge to examine sexual abuse allegations - InfoNews

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Montreal archdiocese calls on retired judge to examine sexual abuse allegations

Archbishop Christian Lepine is seen in his office Wednesday, March 27, 2019 in Montreal. The Diocese of Montreal has assigned an independent committee to examine more than five decades of files related to allegations of sexual abuse committed on children by the clergy or church personnel in Montreal-area parishes.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
March 27, 2019 - 1:53 PM

MONTREAL - The Montreal archdiocese has called on a retired judge to conduct an audit of sexual abuse claims over a span of nearly seven decades, but a group that works with victims raised concerns Wednesday about the church handpicking its own auditor.

Five area dioceses including Montreal's will be taking part in the review to be led by former Superior Court justice Anne-Marie Trahan, the diocese confirmed.

Montreal Archbishop Christian Lepine said Trahan will have unfettered access to all documents — general archival documents as well as reserved archives typically only viewed with the archbishop's approval.

"The aim is to look for the truth, whatever it is, wherever it leads us," Lepine said in an interview Wednesday.

Trahan's mandate is to look at the "number and the nature of well-founded allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against Catholic clergy and mandated lay personnel from 1950 to the present," the archdiocese said in a statement. She accepted the role after being assured she would have access to all files and that the findings would be published.

The audit, which is expected to begin in September, is an important first step, said Lepine, who has been archbishop since 2012. He said he had considered such an audit for four years and sought out Trahan last fall after hearing about a similar exercise in New York City overseen by a judge.

"It's the right moment to do it — it's about many things, but it's also about listening to the victims, and we need to see what is our track record about listening to the victims from 1950 until today, and we need to be truthful about our history," Lepine said.

But an organization that represents victims of pedophile priests raised concerns about the church choosing who would conduct the review. Carlo Tarini, spokesman for the Committee for Victims of Priests, urged victims to go to the police, not the diocese.

"If your life is damaged because of bad treatment by bikers, you don't knock on the biker bunker to ask them to help you investigate it. That's not the way to go," Tarini said, adding that he hoped the Coalition Avenir Quebec government would consider a provincial public inquiry.

Justice Minister Sonia LeBel told reporters it was too early to talk of such an inquiry. She welcomed the Montreal audit. "Anyone who is willing to shed light on such incidents, I think we can only applaud, " LeBel said in Quebec City.

The review, which will focus on people working in parishes, services and institutions in the five dioceses, doesn't have a set time limit. Lepine said Trahan has told him she expects it could take up to two years. Trahan didn't return messages seeking comment.

Lepine said the sentencing this week of Montreal priest Brian Boucher for the sexual abuse of two boys — an investigation the archdiocese participated in with police — only furthered his resolve to forge ahead.

Lepine said some other dioceses have conducted internal audits, and ultimately it would be up to each diocese to decide its own course of action. On Wednesday, the Quebec City diocese said it is working to determine the terms of its own audit.

"Our diocese, since 1992, has put in place a process for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults," the Quebec City diocese said in a statement. It added that since October 2018, it has been working to implement Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops guidelines for responding to abuse.

Montreal's archbishop acknowledged Trahan's conclusions could be troubling if the extent of abuse is worse than expected.

"Looking at your wounds or weaknesses or you sins is not easy, but it's something we need to do," Lepine said. "Pope Francis said at one point we need to find the truth, wherever it leads us, because it's the only way we're going to speak with credibility about the love of God."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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