Victims call on Pope Francis to intervene in appeals against the Church
Victims of sexual assaults committed by members of the Catholic clergy in Quebec are asking Pope Francis to intervene to put an end to the maneuvers used by certain dioceses and certain religious congregations in the context of class actions launched against the Church. Three victims and their lawyers distributed an open letter addressing his Holiness, on the sidelines of his visit to Quebec.
The letter is co-signed by the two lawyers, the spokesperson for victims of sexual assault of priests, Roger Lessard, and two people who have suffered acts of a sexual nature from pedophile priests, Gaétan Boivin and Shirley Christensen. They ask the pope to go beyond prayers to take concrete action. “Can you intervene, Pope Francis, to quickly bring justice to the victims of sexual assault by members of your church, by giving specific instructions to the dioceses and religious congregations of Quebec […]?”
As written in the letter, more than “2,500 victims are still waiting to obtain justice before the Quebec courts”. They and their lawyers demand a formal apology from the Pope. A group of victims and legal representatives set up a press conference to hold the Church to account.
We are happy with the Pope’s visit to Quebec, it will allow us to be heard by the Pope and his entourage.
Me Marc Bellemare, a lawyer representing several victims of sexual abuse in Quebec.
The five people present agree that the objective of their approach is not to divert the Pope’s visit from its central theme, namely reconciliation with the Aboriginal peoples. “We stand 150% in solidarity with the victims of residential schools. However, we do not want the actions of pedophile priests to go under the radar, it is a very serious and very real situation,” continues Me Bellemare.
Pope Francis will be at the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré shrine in Quebec City on July 28. He will present a mass there. The papal visit to Canada will take place from July 24 to 29, 2022.
Me Alain Arsenault, affirms that “although the Holy Father has broadcast a message which invites us to recognize the suffering experienced by the victims, not all religious congregations in Quebec are going in this direction”.
In the missive translated into English and Italian, the two lawyers denounce the behavior of several religious congregations and dioceses which make use of maneuvers which go against the wishes expressed by the pope.
“These defense strategies can lead to waiting times of more than 10 years for certain files, without asking us if certain congregations and certain dioceses take into consideration the age of the victims to lengthen the deadlines, can we read there. . We inform you that several victims have already died along the way, and that others will not know the fate of these files either during their lifetime.
Me Alain Arsenault
In addition to this general letter, each of the two victims sent a very personal message recounting the suffering caused by the actions of the representatives of the Church towards them.
Shirley Christensen, who has been attacked more than forty times by the same priest of the diocese of Quebec, condemns the attitude of Catholic institutions towards her, during long legal proceedings. “At no time throughout these grueling battles, which I waged to have my victim rights recognized […] I have had no right to sympathy from any representative of the Catholic Church. Neither from my attacker, nor from his employer and even less from the Vatican”, she argues.
Made aware of the letter intended for the pontiff, the Archbishop of Quebec, Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, said he wanted to be the messenger of the victims by “bringing this letter personally to the Holy Father”.
“We know him to be sensitive to the pain of victims of abuse and convinced that truth and justice must come first. If Pope Francis comes in the first place to meet the indigenous communities of our country, the common thread of his visit will be the journey towards truth, justice, healing, reconciliation, hope”, he concludes, by way of of press release.
With the collaboration of Zoé Arcand.
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