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Cardinal prefect, Canadian hierarchy knew of Vatican official’s abuse

April 09, 2010

Seven Ontario bishops and Cardinal José Sanchez, the prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy, were aware by 1993 that the secretary-general of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith had committed sexual abuse, according to a February 1993 letter from the bishop of Pembroke (Ontario) to Canada’s apostolic nuncio.

At the time of Msgr. Bernard Prince’s 1991 appointment to the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Bishop Joseph Windle of Pembroke was aware that the priest had abused one boy. Nonetheless, he recalled in the 1993 letter that “while the charge against Fr. Prince was very serious,” he had not objected “to him being given another chance since it would remove him from the Canadian scene.”

By 1993, however, Bishop Windle had become aware that there were four or five victims. In his letter to Archbishop Carlo Curis, who served as apostolic nuncio to Canada from 1990 to 1999, Bishop Windle urged that Father Prince not be given a papal honor or promoted to the episcopate, noting that such a move could prompt victims to speak out publicly.

Three months after he wrote the letter, Bishop Windle retired at age 75; he died in 1997. The Globe and Mail notes that Bishop Windle, contrary to the policy adopted by Canadian bishops in 1993, did not report the abuse to civil authorities.

Msgr. Prince continued to serve as secretary-general of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith until 2004. Laicized by Pope Benedict in 2009, Prince is currently serving a four-year prison term after being convicted of sexually abusing 13 young men between 1964 and 1984. The victims were between 10 and 16 years old.


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