Victims of priest abuse will get ‘fair treatment,’ diocese says

Victims of priest abuse will get ‘fair treatment,’ diocese says

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish said Wednesday it’s committed to providing compassion, compensation and counselling to victims of sexual abuse and regrets the matter is the focus of a new class action lawsuit in Nova Scotia.

“The Diocese of Antigonish acknowledges that sexual abuse did occur with certain priests, some of whom have already been criminally convicted and punished for such horrific crimes,” Bishop Raymond Lahey said in a written statement.

“The victims deserve a fair hearing and fair treatment, and they must be treated with respect and with dignity,” he said.

“While we must sort through the complexities of this new class action litigation, we are committed to providing compassion, compensation and counselling to these victims.

“As well, in consultation with them, we hope to structure a service of reconciliation and healing where we can deliver a formal apology to the victims and their families.”

Bishop Lahey was responding to Tuesday’s news of a lawsuit filed against him, the diocese and the Roman Catholic Church on behalf of people who say they were sexually abused by priests over several decades.

It is the first lawsuit filed under Nova Scotia’s new Class Proceedings Act and claims the church failed to warn or protect children from the sexual deviancies of priests.

The claim, filed by Ronald Martin, has not been proven in court. Mr. Martin alleges he and his brother David were victims of the same priest, the late Hugh Vincent MacDonald. But Ron only learned of his brother’s alleged abuse when he read it in David’s suicide note in 2002. The note sparked a criminal investigation.

Bishop Lahey said the diocese offers psychological counselling and “a less adversarial settlement process for claimants who want to avoid the unwelcome aspects of conventional litigation” and who want to avoid the class action process.

He said the diocese respects the rights of lawsuit claimants.

“While we regret that this matter will now involve somewhat complex court proceedings new to Nova Scotia, our door remains open to explore all avenues of resolution and closure for people who have been genuinely victimized.”

Printed in the Chronicle Herald,

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