Diocese Ruled Public: Catholic Church to be Scrutinized

May 2, 2006

By: Terri Saunders, Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

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The local Catholic diocese will be subjected to the same level of scrutiny as other public institutions during the Cornwall Public Inquiry, the commission's judge ruled Monday.

The ruling came on the same day the judge disallowed a motion asking for the exclusion of victim testimony from the inquiry.

In March, an attorney for the diocese answered concerns raised by several groups which have standing at the inquiry about whether or not the church would be considered a public institution under the terms of reference of the inquiry.

Glaude said Monday he does not intend to hold the church itself up for scrutiny but rather the diocese itself.

"The fact remains that this should not and cannot be looked upon as an investigation of the church, its doctrine or its beliefs," he said. "The diocese is the corporate entity, the human resources arm of the Roman Catholic Church, which employed the priests who worked in this area (and) as such, the mandate will be applied to the diocese in the same way as it is

being applied to other public institutions involved in this inquiry."

The judge's decision was "fair, firm and clear," commission counsel said following the ruling, and will allow the inquiry to fulfill its mandate.

"It will allow the commission to look at the diocese's response to allegations as well as non-response," said Peter Engelmann. "It will allow us to do more than just look at the interactions between the diocese and other public institutions; it will allow us to look at how the diocese handled these allegations in relation to its employees the same as we will

with other employers.

"It will allow us to investigate how they dealt with allegations and what the response was and it means the commission will also be able to make recommendations to the diocese as to how it should respond to these sorts of allegations in the future."

Dallas Lee, an attorney representing The Victims Group, said the ruling confirms what many parties at the inquiry have believed since day one.

"It shows us that the commission believes what nearly everyone else believes and that is that the diocese is a central institution in this inquiry," he said. "Identifying the diocese as a public institution is critically important if we want to have a full and complete public inquiry."

The judge also ruled the Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese will be considered a public institution under the inquiry's terms of reference.

Glaude's ruling elicited strong reactions from a number of victims who were on hand for the decision.

"In a word, they're thrilled," said Lee. "I think many of them are experiencing sheer relief and the mood among them is positive."

Jamie Marsolais, a member of The Victims Group, said Glaude's ruling served to do more than just ensure the thoroughness of the inquiry.

"I think with the comments he made . . . the judge garnered a lot of respect," said Marsolais, who says he was repeatedly sexually abused by Richard Hickerson, a Human Resources and Skills Development employee in the early 1980s from the time he was nine until he was 12. "I think he's being very fair and open about all this and it makes me confident this inquiry will actually do what it's supposed to do and that is get to the bottom of what happened in Cornwall."

Engelmann said the judge's rulings will permit the inquiry to fulfill its mandate and stay on schedule.

"This will allow us to move forward with this inquiry in an expeditious manner," he said, "because there is a lot of work to be done."

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