We are not talking about isolated acts committed by a few priests

A Catholic religious order in Quebec has approved settling a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of abuse victims at a school it ran. It’s a large settlement. Very large.

It’s twenty million dollars.

“This is a landmark case,” said Robert Kugler, a Montreal lawyer who represents the victims. “This is the highest amount that has ever been paid by a religious congregation in Quebec to settle a class action dealing with sexual abuse.”

The suit was launched by former student Frank Tremblay against the school, the Redemptorist order, and priest Raymond-Marie Lavoie. Mr. Tremblay recounted that as a 13-year-old student, he sought out Mr. Lavoie after feeling anxious and unable to sleep one night; he ended up being assaulted three to five times a week for four months. (Mr. Lavoie, in a criminal trial, pleaded guilty in 2011 to sexually assaulting 13 boys at the school – the Séminaire Saint-Alphonse, subsequently named Collège Saint-Alphonse – while he was a dorm supervisor.)

Quebec Superior Court held the religious order responsible in a ruling in July. The court decision recounts a harrowing catalogue of abuse carried out by the Redemptorist priests against young boys entrusted to their care, from sexual touching to sodomy.

It was a respected school, with a reputation for high educational standards.

The abuse spread upward in the school hierarchy to include two school directors, who also turned a deaf ear to the students’ laments, according to the judge’s decision. When one complained about the predatory behaviour of two priests, the director retorted that the student should consider himself lucky to get so much attention and affection; he then reminded the boy that his mother had not paid his bill for three months.

Two other students who complained about abuse were threatened with expulsion.

Welllll, you see, it was different then. Morality was different. Priests were different, children were different, school directors were different. Nobody understood that raping children was wrong. Besides, this is the Catholic church we’re talking about, with its special relationship to God and its possession of Absolute Moral Truth.

The judge in the class action, Claude Bouchard, said the Redemptorist order could not have been unaware of the sexual predation by its priests.

“We are not talking about isolated acts committed by a few priests,” he said in addressing the order’s responsibility. He cited “repeated acts” by nine priests against more than 70 students during more than two decades. Six of the priests have since died.

“Whether it was in the dorm, the nearby priest’s bedroom … in his school office, infirmary, school hallway, in the refectory or in a cottage belonging to the school a few kilometres away, is it possible that sexual assaults perpetrated in these different places could have occurred without the Redemptorists being informed one way or the other?” Justice Bouchard asked.

“The court doesn’t believe it,” he concluded.

Well the court is damn lucky this isn’t the 15th century, isn’t it, or it would find itself standing on a bonfire right smart quick.


  1. maudell says

    Finally. The catholic church was terrible in Quebec all the way to the 60s, with their powerful alliance with the provincial government.

    Now the elephant in the room is all the First Nations people who were abused in so-called residential schools. For some reason, I’m more pessimistic about that one.

  2. says

    @Maudell, I agree. I’ve a friend who’s family and extended family were torn apart and destroyed by the good ole Catholic Church and their residential schools. The damage is still being felt in a very big way by her and what relatives are still alive today. Even her kids, now in their 20s, are still having to cope with lasting damage to their family and tribe. As are all the First Nations people.

    There has been some small and long overdue formal recognition on the part of the Canadian federal government, bit not nearly enough. Both the gov’t and the church are responsible and need to be held accountable. But like you, I doubt the church itself will ever fully admit to their crimes or be held fully accountable. Nor will the priests, administrators and nuns who committed such horrific abuse – sexual and other crimes like beating, sometimes even torturing small children, and starving them, while operating those schools ever be brought to justice. Not even posthumously for those now dead.

    And people still wonder why racism is still alive and thriving…

  3. sailor1031 says

    That same Globe & Mail site also had links to a case in Iqaliut (Nunavut) against a belgian oblate (the oblates had for many years a virtual lock on “mission work” in the north) and rape by an orthodox priest in an east-end Toronto church.

    The catholic church was terrible in Quebec all the way to the 60s

    Yes they were. I lived in Montreal during the “quiet revolution”. The sense of freedom from RCC domination was palpable and so invigorating.

  4. Decker says

    Now I understand why so many Catholic churches are being transformed into luxury condos.

    The Church’s land holdings, especially those in and around Montréal, make it a very wealthy institution.

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