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Catholic Church Liable for Sexual Abuse of Altar Boys: St. John’s, Newfoundland

Last week the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador ruled that the Roman Catholic Church in St. John’s was responsible for the sexual abuse of eight former altar boys by disgraced priest, Reverend James Hickey.

Priest Convicted of Abusing Alter Boys

Hickey was criminally charged ten years ago with sexually abusing the boys while he was a parish priest on the Burin Peninsula. He was convicted and spent five years in prison.

Church Fights Victims for 10 Years

Despite Hickey’s criminal conviction the Roman Catholic Church has fought the victim’s claims for compensation tooth and nail for almost 10 years.

Destroyed Faith in God

Gregory Stack, who represented the abuse survivors, told CBC News that the sexual abuse didn’t just destroy the victims physically or psychologically, the sexual abuse destroyed their faith in God.

“The boys…generally came from the more devout catholic homes. The more devout, the more religious parents that pushed their children to become altar boys, and these were the boys who were victimized by the parish priest.

It is the whole coupling of that- the sense that god has abused them. And that’s what they believed in those small communities. By in large, the parish priest was a god-like figure”

This is just another sad example of how the Catholic Church is prepared to fight to it’s last penny rather than acknowledge it’s responsibility to the victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

Supreme Court Rules Church Responsible for Sexual Abuse

Six years ago the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Roman Catholic Church is responsible (vicariously liable) for sexual abuse by it’s Priests. In Doe v. Bennett (another priest abuse case from Newfoundland) the court ruled that the Roman Catholic Church was responsible for the sexual abuse perpetrated by it’s priests because of the power and authority over parishioners that the Church gave to it’s priests.

The Supreme Court of Canada stated that:

“The relationship between the bishop and the priest in the Diocese is not only spiritual but temporal.

First, the Bishop provided Bennett with the opportunity to abuse his power.

Second, Bennett’s wrongful acts were strongly related to the psychological intimacy inherent in his role as priest.

Third, the Bishop conferred an enormous degree of power on Bennett relative to his victims”

The Catholic Church’s refusal to acknowledge its responsibility to Hickey’s victims simply perpetuates the view that the Catholic Church cares more about its reputation than it does about protecting vulnerable and innocent children from sexual abuse.

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Does the Catholic Church Attract Sexual Abusers…or Create Them?

Supreme Court of Canada Clarifies Burden of Proof for Sexual Abuse Victims