Provincial News

Dozens of cases of abuse by Catholic priests in Vancouver Archdiocese

By The Canadian Press

Published 4:16 PST, Fri November 22, 2019

VANCOUVER — A file review of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy within the Archdiocese of Vancouver has uncovered 36 cases, most of them involving minors.

A report released Friday says Archbishop Michael Miller appointed a committee last year to conduct the review following the disclosure of global sexual abuse by clergy.

"This past year, guided by divine providence, we have studied and learned more than ever before about the pain suffered by you, victims/survivors of clerical sexual abuse in our Archdiocese," Miller says in a pastoral letter preceding the report.

Meetings were held where case summaries were presented by lawyers and the report says the chair of the committee concluded there were 26 cases of abuse of minors by clergy, seven involving adults and three where priests had fathered children.

It says the abuse dates from the 1950s to present and covers the archdiocese area of Metro Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast, and other parts of B.C.

The report also notes that the archdiocese has dealt with a number of additional cases and that two non-Catholic lawyers have been appointed to take over the investigation and review the files.

"These courageous claimants who contacted the archdiocese were heard and believed. The fact that these cases are not dealt with in this report does not mean they were unfounded," the report says.

One of the committee's most "devastating realizations" was the recognition that in historical cases, victims who came forward had to sign confidentiality agreements, which meant their stories were not made public, it says.

The committee makes 31 recommendations, including that the archdiocese publish a list of the clergy who have been convicted, admitted to or have been "credibly accused" of sexual abuse along with their photos, locations and where they lived and worked.

The report contains the names and most of the photos of nine men who were either criminally convicted, settled lawsuits or were removed from the church even though charges were stayed.

The chair of the case review committee, Vancouver-based lawyer Mary Margaret MacKinnon, says in the report that publishing other names will require figuring out how to balance legal obligations with the public's desire to know.

"People who are 'credibly accused,' according to U.S. language, or 'probably guilty' in Canadian terms, are going to be much more challenging to deal with," says MacKinnon.

She says there are ongoing discussions about setting up administrative tribunals to make determinations about probable wrongdoing, and what level of publication is possible in Canada.

"Meanwhile, we should be able to disclose the names in a limited fashion, perhaps in the parish where that offence has alleged to have occurred, to see if there are other people who have been affected," says MacKinnon.

The archdiocese says it is working with experts from across Canada to "find legal means to share information regarding clergy who have not been convicted, but of whose guilt we are morally certain."

The report says that due to Canadian privacy law the Archdiocese of Vancouver is more restricted than American dioceses, which have published the names of "credibly accused" priests.

Also among the committee's 31 recommendations is the establishment of an intake office for complaints, with staff trained specifically to handle the complexities of clergy sexual abuse.

The archdiocese says it will establish such an office by the end of the first quarter of next year.

Miller's letter says that even though the brutality of the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults is a widespread tragedy, it has taken the Catholic Church around the world far too long to address its devastating consequences.

"I realize that no expression of regret can repair the horror of what happened. Although nothing can undo the wrong that was done to you, I nonetheless wish to offer each of you my heartfelt apology for the trauma, the violation in body and soul, and the sense of betrayal and abandonment by the church that you feel."

The report names nine clergy:

Criminally convicted:

Paul Blancard, born 1940. A complaint regarding his time in the Diocese of Victoria was made to the RCMP in 1990. Charges were laid in 1992 and Blancard was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison.

George Gordon, died 2000. He was charged with the abuse of three boys that took place in the 1950s at Holy Rosary Cathedral. He remained in ministry until two of survivors reported the crimes to the archdiocese and police in 1989. The report says he also acknowledged the existence of other victims. He was convicted in 1992 and sentenced to six months in jail.

John McCann, died 2018. He was convicted in 1991 of six counts relating to sex abuse of girls under the age of 16 in the 1970s. He served 10 months in jail. The abuse occurred when he was serving at St. Augustine's Parish between 1972 and 1973, and St. Peter's in New Westminster between 1975 and 1990.

Harold McIntee, died 2016. He was arrested in February 1989 and charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse. Many of his victims were boys in residential schools in the dioceses of Kamloops, Prince George and Victoria. When he was arrested, he worked in parishes in Ucluelet and Tofino. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in jail plus three years probation for sex abuse of 17 boys in B.C. over 25 years.

Alfred Frank Louis Sasso, died 1991. A priest of the Diocese of London, Ontario, he pleaded guilty in 1980 to three counts of gross indecency against three youths in Ontario. He was convicted and sentenced to 3 months in jail. After serving his sentence and receiving psychological treatment, he came to Vancouver, where he worked at parishes in Vancouver between 1981 and 1984, when he left abruptly and returned to Ontario.

Lawsuits settled:

Lawrence Edward (Damian) Cooper, born 1958. He admitted to having a relationship with a girl he met in 1985 when she was 15. Their relationship became sexual several years later, by which point he was a priest. In 2012, the Vancouver woman launched a civil lawsuit against Cooper, which was settled out of court.

Antero Sarmiento, died 2019. Complaints of inappropriate behaviour were made to the Archdiocese in 1980 and Sarmiento returned to the Archdiocese of Manila, which had allowed him to work on loan to Vancouver since 1977. Police obtained an arrest warrant on three charges of indecent assault in 2004, but he refused to return here for questioning. Three subsequent civil lawsuits were settled by the archdiocese in recent years.

Other public cases:

Edwin Budiman, born 1942. In 2007, he was charged with two criminal sexual offences involving minors. The Crown later stayed both charges, but according to the church's own canon law, Budiman was removed as a pastor.

John Eason, born 1941. He was convicted of one count of indecent assault of a 21-year-old woman in 1995. He pleaded guilty and he was ordered to serve a two-and-a-half year probation term, during which he was required to undergo counselling.

– Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press

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