Canadian clergy-abuse survivors lobby for Catholic Church reforms, disclosure around accused priests
Canadian clergy-abuse survivors gathered in Cornwall, Ont., this week to lobby for reforms, asking Catholic Church leadership to boost disclosure, publish the names of credibly accused priests in the country and create external oversight to monitor how the church handles sexual-abuse claims.
The survivors’ gathering coincides with the annual plenary assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) this week. A group of about six bishops met with the survivors on Sunday. But the survivors say they have so far been denied permission to speak to the main assembly of about 90 bishops, despite sending a letter of request in August.
It’s believed to be the first time that Indigenous and non-Indigenous survivors of clergy abuse have joined together to push for change on this issue. They want to see more accountability, transparency and justice from the church and assurances that stronger protection standards are being implemented across the country.
“We’re hoping that our presence here in Cornwall will cause a pause in the bishops’ assembly this week to take into consideration our voices, our concerns and our desire to be part of the solution to end this crisis, which is a global crisis,” said Brenda Brunelle, who was abused by a priest as a 12-year-old girl in Windsor, Ont.
A Globe and Mail story this week detailed how the responses in Canada to the sexual-abuse scandal hitting the Catholic Church lag the deeper changes in peer countries. Canada doesn’t have a national child-safeguarding watchdog with specific oversight of the Catholic Church, unlike Ireland, nor have there been published estimates on the numbers of victims, credibly accused priests or the scope of settlements paid out to victims, unlike the United States and Australia.
“Canada is way behind on this issue,” Ms. Brunelle said at a news conference where eight clergy-abuse survivors spoke. She said that when they raised the matter of implementing the church’s own guidelines on protecting minors, they were told “each diocese is self-governing. They have a guideline that they follow and they have no way of knowing whether a bishop is following it or not.”
Three survivors of abuse from St. Anne’s residential school in Northern Ontario spoke of the lasting impact of the abuse they suffered, which ranged from sexual abuse to being hit with books and made to eat their own vomit; they repeated calls for the Pope to apologize for the church’s role in running residential schools.
As well, “we’re here to ask the Pope to release the documents that have proven there has been abuse. We need these documents to be released for educational purposes, so that we can rewrite the true Indigenous history of Canada,” said Evelyn Korkmaz, a Cree residential-school survivor and founding member of Ending Clergy Abuse, a glo...