Friday, 7 August 2009

Catholic diocese accepts responsibility for harm done to children by priests.

This may well be the first time in North America that an official of the Catholic Church, the bishop of a Nova Scotia diocese, has accepted accountability in advance of a court judgement in favour of the victims of sexual abuse by priests employed by the religious institution.

Bishop Raymond Lahey of the Antigonish diocese, where the abuse is alleged to have occurred, said the agreement is the first step in recognizing the alleged abuse of children as young as eight years old.

“I want to formally apologize to every victim and to their families for the sexual abuse that was inflicted on them,” he said at a news conference in Halifax. “Money can never compensate fully, but we are trying ... to be fair, responsible, respectful and, most of all, compassionate.”

This is different from legal decisions rendered in the matter of individual priests, where the victims of childhood sexual abuse have won settlements that validated their claims against the perpetrator and the Catholic Church, such as
the case of Charles Sylvestre.

Perhaps the Catholic officials in Ireland could follow the example of the diosese of Antigonish and its bishop and take responsibility for the decades of psychological and physical violence done to thousands of children in their care, as reported last May. But then, that might take a bite out of the corporate coffers of the Church and the Vatican Taliban would probably prevent such an action, compassionate and responsible though it would be.

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