Five men filed lawsuits yesterday seeking $2 million each from the Roman Catholic Diocese of London, alleging they were abused more than 50 years ago by a priest at small parishes across the Chatham and Windsor areas.
The lawsuits were unveiled at a news conference in Chatham held by the London law firm Ledroit Beckett. The five men, who join a lawsuit launched earlier this year by Wayne Thibert, were between the ages of nine and 12 and serving as altar boys at various parishes where Rev. Laurent (Lawrence) C. Paquette served between 1955 and his death in 1986.
The five men allege Paquette sexually abused them.
One claimant, identified only as JR, alleges Paquette molested him at St. Phillip in Grande Pointe.
"It was to be a secret between him and me and he told me not to tell anybody," said the man, who told his wife a few months ago.
The man, who described himself as a "workaholic" who occasionally struggles with alcohol, said his children still don't know about the claim.
"Initially, it was fondling, but then it led to other things," said the man.
The allegations in the statement of claim have not been proven in court.
"These claims are so old, we really need the public's help in putting them together," lawyer Rob Talach said.
"We believe there may be (others) . . . who haven't come forward."
Talach explained it's not unusual for male victims of childhood sexual abuse not to report their abusers until decades later, partly because of the shame of being abused by another man.
The pressure of living in small French-Canadian communities, such as Grande Pointe, where the church played a major role in family and community life, also is a factor, he said.
"At the end of the day, they wish to now simply disclose the truth, seek justice and achieve healing," Talach said.
Mark Adkinson, a spokesperson for the diocese, said the diocese began an investigation in January when it received an allegation about Paquette.
"(We) informed our parish communities and made an appeal for anyone with information to come forward," he said.
"The Diocese of London takes any allegation very seriously."
Adkinson urged anyone who feels they have been a victim of abuse by a priest to contact Rev. John Sharp, Bishop Ronald Fabbro's delegate on sexual misconduct.
"We immediately respond to requests of funding for counselling and we will continue to do all that we can to ensure children and other vulnerable persons are safe," Adkinson said.
Paquette served at
St. Anne, Tecumseh (1943-1950);
Our Lady of Fatima, Windsor (1950-1952);
St. Ignatius, Bothwell (1952-1955);
St. Philippe, Grande Pointe (1955-1967);
St. Gregory the Great, St. Clair Beach (1967-1970);
St. Joseph, River Canard (1970-1975);
St. Thomas Aquinas, Sarnia (1975-1980);
and St. Clement, McGregor (1980-1986).
The London diocese is already grappling with several civil suits -- many filed by victims of Rev. Charles Sylvestre. He was convicted in 2006 of indecently assaulting 47 girls in four parishes over 30 years.
Sylvestre died in prison nearly two years ago at age 84.