The Diocese of London has settled more than $1.5 million in lawsuits in connection with sexual abuse cases involving two former priests with connections to Chatham-Kent.
Rob Talach, of Ledroit Beckett Litigation Lawyers in London, said 10 sexual abuse lawsuits were settled after negotiations in January.
The majority of cases involved deceased Father Lawrence C. Paquette, who reportedly sexually abused boys in Bothwell, Grande Pointe and St. Clair Beach, he said.
"We know of many other victims in the Grande Pointe area," Talach said. "He was in Grande Pointe a long time and did a lot of damage."
He said Paquette, who served in Grande Pointe for about a decade, abused boys during confession and his victims report that as part of the abuse, he would bite and lick their ears. The allegations were never proven in court.
Talach said many people don't come forward because they fear the process and going public. However, he said it's a misconception that victims have to go public in order to hold the offender or church accountable.
"It's a very confidential process," he said, adding the people who speak out choose to do so.
Talach said nine of the 11 lawsuits involving Paquette's victims were settled after two days of intense negotiations early last month.
"The Diocese of London appears committed to financially compensating victims of Father Lawrence C. Paquette," he said. "The significance of the Paquette case is it might signal a shift in the diocese's approach."
Diocese spokesman Mark Adkinson said the diocese first heard allegations against Paquette in 2008 when lawsuits were filed. He said while Paquette was alive, no allegations came to light. He died in 1986.
"Essentially, we're taking the victims' word," he said.
Talach said the diocese handled the Paquette cases a lot quicker than the claims involving victims of pedophile priest Charles Sylvestre, who abused more than 47 women in Chatham, Pain Court, London, Sarnia and Windsor.
Approximately a dozen of those claims are still outstanding, he said.
"We've learned a lot through the process," Adkinson said. "The goal is to reach fair and reasonable settlements as soon as possible.
"We are committed to living up to our responsibilities and obligations to victims of sexual misconduct in the search for justice and truth."
Talach said the diocese also resolved one claim involving defrocked priest Barry Glendinning, who is originally from Wallaceburg.
He said the case involved alleged sexual abuse by Glendinning during his first parish posting in Windsor during the mid 1960s.
The total combined value of the settlements was $1,563,644.91, Talach said. He said individual settlements varied from less than $100,000 to as high as $315,000.
Talach said the men are relieved to have the lawsuits settled.
"A lot of their lives have been difficult," he said.
Adkinson said the diocese continues to offer counselling to all victims of sexual abuse by clergy.
"We're sorry for the hurt that these and other victims have suffered," he said.
He praised people who come forward and report abuse, noting they make a difference and the church continues to work toward preventing misconduct.
"We encourage anyone who may have been harmed to come forward," he said.