Canadian Priest Permanently Removed from Public Ministry, SNAP Reacts
The permanent removal of a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Edmonton was announced on Christmas Eve. We at SNAP are wondering why the cleric was allowed to remain in ministry for so many years following the serious accusations against him and if he will now finally be laicized.
Canadian Archbishop Richard W. Smith permanently removed the faculties of Rev. Sylvio Lacar only last week. Yet thirty-six years ago, Fr. Lacar was sued for his part in a troubling ring of priests in Los Angeles that were accused of sexually abusing and impregnating a teen-aged girl. Reportedly, all seven of the accused fled the country after the victim filed suit and Fr. Lacar's whereabouts remained unknown until fairly recently.
Unfortunately, with the clerics all absconded and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles dismissed as a defendant, the 1984 lawsuit was apparently dismissed. However, in 1991, the priest who first raped the girl publicly apologized to her in a news conference both for his crimes and for involving the other priests in her abuse.
After California opened a civil window in 2003, following the Boston Globe's devastating investigation into the cover-up of Catholic clergy child sex abuse in that city in 2002, the complaint appears to have been revived. In 2007, it was reportedly settled for $500,000, part of a $660-million settlement between the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and hundreds of people who alleged that they were sexually abused by Catholic clergy. Fr. Lacar was also included in the Archdiocese’s list of priests accused of sexual misconduct involving minors.
Fr. Lacar has denied the allegations against him and has never been criminally prosecuted.
While the Archdiocese of Edmonton did not provide a detailed assignment history of Fr. Lacar's time in Canada, we find it extremely troubling that the cleric was able to move to Canada and continue as a priest for so many years. The priest was publicly exposed in 1984 and then again in 2007. At best this seems to be a loophole in the 2002 Dallas Charter, which promised zero tolerance for abusive clergy -- but apparently only in the United States -- and at worst is an example of how the Bishops' "playbook," revealed in the 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, is used globally to protect the Catholic Church and its treasure while exposing countless young lives to the devastating effects of child sexual abuse.
Fr. Lacar has not yet been laicized, and there was no mention that Archbishop Smith had forwarded such a request to Rome. We remain concerned that this cleric will immigrate to yet another country or return to his native Philippines and be allowed to return to ministry.
It would help if the Archdiocese of Edmonton would produce its own list of accused clerics, brothers, nuns, seminarians, lay employees, and volunteers, living and dead, along with photos and assignment histories including dates. In fact, all of Canada's Catholic Dioceses and religious orders should be required to produce such lists so that the full scope of abuse in the country can be identified and also so that today's children can be protected and victims can feel vindicated and empowered to come forward to heal.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)