Lawyer Says Priests Covered Up Sex Abuse

January 19, 2010

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SUDBURY, Ont. - Parishioners in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie should be horrified that one of their church leaders deliberately covered up sexual abuse of altar boys by a parish priest and interfered in a police investigation into it more than 25 years ago, charges a lawyer.

Auxiliary Bishop Gerard Dionne is 90-years-old and believed to be living in a nursing home in New Brunswick and there are those who believe the matter should be left alone, said Rob Talach.

But just because a person a managed to "dodge justice" for years does not mean "you should just let them walk."

Talach is representing five men in five separate civil suits for $3 (million) each against Cloutier and the diocese. Dionne is named in two of the lawsuits. The suits contain allegations that have not been proven in a court of law.

Cloutier was convicted of 11 of 16 charges laid by the Crown against the priest after five men came forward with stories of sexual abuse that occurred from 1971-1983. Cloutier was found guilty of charges pertaining to four of those men. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but is appealing.

At the criminal trial, it was learned the parents of two of the boys, now 39 and 42, who were abused by Cloutier complained to police. When a Greater Sudbury Police sergeant came to interview one of the boys and his parents, Dionne arrived, with Cloutier in tow and derailed the investigation.

No charges were laid until 2007.

Talach said he was angry 60 people wrote letters supporting Cloutier, which were presented in the trial.

Some people did come forward with evidence, but Talach said he was surprised at the "deference and silence" from Sudbury-area Roman Catholics about this case.

"We're not Boston here, but we're inching toward it," said Talach of several lawsuits filed against several priests in the diocese.

"Where is the outrage?" He is calling upon "the undecided" in Roman Catholic parishes -- those who may believe priests have sexually abused children -- to step forward and speak out about it.

Talach has filed lawsuits against the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie for five years.

He said three burning issues are affecting the Roman Catholic Church's credibility.

The first is the sexual abuse of children by priests. The second is the church's refusal to ordain women. Third is the requirement that priests be celibate.

This "trinity of issues" is hurting the church, which should not remain stuck in medieval times. "Seek something bold and new" and proactive, he urged.

But Talach said he is not seeing positive signs of change within the church, despite filing "truckloads" of abuse cases against priests and dioceses.

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