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Canada: diocese, attorneys differ over obligation to report abuse allegations to police

Catholic World News - January 04, 2013

A New Brunswick archdiocese and attorneys for abuse victims are engaging in a public dispute over whether the archdiocese is obligated to report abuse allegations to police immediately.

Asking for “forgiveness from the victims and their families,” Archbishop Valéry Vienneau of Moncton announced on December 30 that he had removed two priests from ministry following allegations. According to an archdiocesan statement, one of the priests was removed from ministry in July, while the other, now 82, had retired in 1992. There was no explanation from the archdiocese about the reason for the delay in announcing the first priest’s suspension.

In June, the archdiocese had announced that Michel Bastarache, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, had agreed to serve as “independent conciliator” in order to “to design and direct a process to identify victims of sexual abuse” committed by a different priest. After Bastarache learned of the allegations against the two recently suspended priests, he reported them to the archdiocese but not to police.

“The bishop can’t give [police] the names because he doesn’t have them, and I can’t give them because I have a confidentiality agreement with the victims," said Bastarache, who added that he encouraged victims to report allegations to the police. “It has to be a victim that goes to the police and not somebody with third-party information.”

“You name me any other institution, school board, a daycare, or a boys’ home that would not immediately react with disgust and outrage and drag the information down to the police station before the end of that same day,” countered attorney Robert Talach.

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