WINDSOR, Ont. - Canada has long been a "dumping ground" for American sex abuser priests, who come here either to flee prosecution or are transferred by churches hoping to keep things quiet, according to experts and victims.
"It's bad and bound to get worse," said David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) in St. Louis. "As predator priests become more fearful of getting caught and bishops become more worried about scandal, both the temptation and incidents of transferring dangerous men will become greater. It's very safe to say there are dozens and dozens of cases."
Meanwhile, Tuesday, alleged sex abuse victims launched lawsuits against two former Windsor priests, who co-incidentally lived across the hall from each other at St. Peter's Seminary in London, Ont., when one of them was abusing children in his room.
London lawyer Rob Talach, who filed the suits on behalf of his clients, said the similar career paths of Rev. Barry Glendinning, already convicted in 1974 of gross indecency against six other boys, and the late Rev. William Ring suggest the diocese hid the abuse by shuffling the accused into academic work. Both were also transferred from their first parish assignments to Rome for higher education, he said.
Clohessy said it makes sense accused American priests come here. Most are in their 50s or 60s when they get caught, aren't multilingual and don't want to live in a Third World country.
Canada, with its proximity, similar culture, language and living standard, is an obvious choice, he said.
Spokesman Ron Pickersgill said he's not aware of that happening in the London diocese. He said a priest couldn't transfer here without Bishop Ronald Fabbro's permission, which would require investigation. If anything were "questionable," he wouldn't get in, said Pickersgill.
President Terry McKiernan of BishopAccountability.org, a website tracking clergy abuse in the U.S., said the transfer of accused priests across borders isn't new.
"The church has for decades used political borders and diocesan borders to keep priests working and keep whatever facts that came out in previous cases secret from the people they're currently working with," he said.
Rev. Paul Desilets, released from a Massachusetts prison last month, had to be extradited from Canada in 2005 after he was indicted on sex charges in the U.S. in 2002.
After he was caught, he pleaded guilty to multiple counts of indecent assault and battery on a child and several other charges involving 18 boys. When released from prison, Desilets, 82, got permission from a U.S. judge to return to his religious order in Quebec to serve probation.
Pickersgill said the only way a priest accused of abuse might get work in a different diocese is through religious orders, which run their own churches.
Heads of orders have the authority to transfer priests across diocese borders, said Pickersgill. He said it still requires the bishop's permission, but it's usually a formality.