Former Saint John’s Archbishop Alphonse Penney was aware of sexual abuse allegations against former Roman Catholic Priest James Hickey as early as 1980. This according to evidence filed by the diocese’s insurers who are seeking to deny responsibility for paying civil suits filed against the diocese by Hickey’s sexual abuse victims.
Testified Under Oath
But according to affidavit evidence filed by Guardian Insurance, Penney was advised about Hickey’s sexual misconduct by a Catholic seminarian, Randy Joseph Barnes.
If the insurance company’s allegations are proven correct (at this point they are only allegations) then it would appear that Bishop Penney committed perjury when he testified during the Winter Commission Inquiry.
Will Police Investigate Possible Charges Against Penney?
If so, we hope police in Newfoundland and Labrador will take appropriate steps to investigate and, if appropriate, lay criminal charges against Penney.
Hold Those Resposible to Account
The only way to stop the rampant sexual abuse within the Catholic Church is to hold those responsible for allowing the abuse to continue to account.
Recently criminal charges were laid against Bishop Finn of Kansas city in the United States. The charges allege Bishop Finn was aware of allegations of sexual abuse by priests within his diocese and failed to report them to the authorities as required by law.
Law Requires Reporting of Abuse
Every province in Canada has legislation that requires persons in authority (including Bishops) to report suspected cases of child sexual abuse to the appropriate authorities.
However, I am not aware of any cases in Canada where a Bishop (or for that matter any religious authority) has been charged for failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse. This despite the fact that there have been dozens of priests across Canada accused or convicted of childhood sexual abuse.
Perhaps the police need to be urged to be more aggressive in their investigation of potential failures to meet the statutory obligations.
What do you think? Please let me know in the comments