Victim groups are questioning the independence of the process launched this week by the Archdiocese of Montreal to identify cases of sexual abuse within the institution.
The Committee on Priests’ Victims wonders in particular why it was retired judge André Denis who was retained by the archdiocese to write this report.
The latter made a bad impression on several victims, whereas in 1994, he ruled against the orphans of Duplessis, who suffered abuse from members of religious communities during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
Judge Denis, who was sitting in the Superior Court at the time, ruled that the cases of hundreds of orphans were too complex to be the subject of criminal proceedings, among other things because there was limitation.
“Among the survivors, there are some who told me that it was perhaps not the most appropriate judge to carry out this work,” said Carlo Tarini of the Committee of Priests’ Victims.
Mr. Tarini recalled that the former judge Denis was appointed by Bishop Christian Lépine last December to replace the former magistrate Anne-Marie Trahan, who was to produce this report, but who died prematurely in 2019.
However, Mrs. Trahan was a notorious Catholic, chancellor of the Canadian branch of the Order of Malta.
“Coming from people who say they want to open the books, it smells bad,” dropped Mr. Tarini in reference to these two appointments.
Public inquiry requested
Lucien Landy, who is president of the Duplessis Orphans Committee, has no doubts about André Denis’ competence, but believes that the mandate entrusted to him is far too limited.
The Archdiocese instructed him to examine all the files of people who have been part of the institution since 1940. This includes the dioceses of Montreal, Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Valleyfield, Saint-Jérôme, Joliette , but not the religious communities that revolve around them.
“It is certain that for the complaints which were addressed to religious communities, the diocese of Montreal was complicit, even if it was not priests who abused. The children would go to confession and the archbishopric under Cardinal Léger asked them to be silent, ”said Lucien Landry.
He calls on Quebec to launch a vast public inquiry to shed light on these stories that have plagued the Church for years.
Carlo Tarini is of the same opinion, doubting that the report of the ex-judge Denis can be entirely transparent.
“When a police officer commits a crime, the same police department is investigating. So why would it be different with the Church? ”He continued, accusing the Archdiocese of Montreal of not having consulted the victims before launching the process.
Bishop Lépine on the defensive
In an interview with the QMI Agency, the Archbishop of Montreal defended the independence of the work directed by ex-judge Denis.
“We have great confidence in him, in his career,” insisted Bishop Christian Lépine, who swears that he did not know that the former magistrate had played a central role in the cause of the orphans of Duplessis.
The team he has put in place should have finished checking all files by the spring and will deliver their audit in the fall. The priority is to ensure that no member still active in the archdiocese, whether religious or lay, has been the target of allegations of sexual abuse in the past.
In such a case, those suspected of abuse will be suspended, promises Bishop Légine.
The victims’ associations also want the names of deceased priests on whom disturbing elements have been discovered to be made public, but the archdiocese is not committing to anything.
“Regarding the disclosure of names, it is very sensitive and it is difficult to engage in one direction or the other”, estimated Mgr Lépine.