In his London, Ont., firm, lawyer Robert Talach is known as “the priest guy.”
That’s because, for more than a decade, Talach has done little else in his practice but sue the Catholic Church on behalf of Canadians who say they were sexually abused as children by priests. He has represented abuse victims from Vancouver to Moncton,
“I’m almost 13 years into just chasing the priests,” he said in an interview. “I do one United Church case every year, maybe one Anglican. But I have 50 Catholic cases … It says they have a problem.”
He believes the Catholic Church, by requiring a celibate priesthood, made sexuality a forbidden subject among priests and the bishops responsible for managing them. It meant, he said, that even sex abuse was not discussed.
“Very rarely have I encountered a whistleblower priest,” he said. “Nobody steps forward. Nobody squeals on their brother priest.”
Talach has represented more than a dozen clients from Ottawa, most of whom where victimized by Rev. Dale Crampton, the most notorious name in this city’s clergy abuse scandal.
In his experience, Talach said, abuse victims tend to bury the memories for years before something — often a media report — triggers their desire to pursue justice. “Sex abuse is the ideal crime because it’s done in private, then people sit on the memory for decades,” he said.
Born and raised on a farm near Chatham, Ont., Talach became a Canadian Forces reservist while in university and once served on a peacekeeping mission to Bosnia. He studied law at the University of Windsor, and soon after graduating, became involved in his first sexual abuse lawsuit at the London law firm Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers. In that case, Talach helped win $1.4 million in damages for three brothers abused by a then-Catholic priest, Rev. Barry Glendinning.
More victims came forward after the trial. “Then this thing kept snowballing,” he said.
Talach has made submissions to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on behalf of clergy sex abuse victims. He has asked the organization to automatically launch proceedings to defrock priests convicted of sexual offences, and to publish a list of abusers — and their whereabouts — if they remain in the clergy.
A spokesman for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said the Vatican decides who is defrocked based on formal applications. When to launch such an application, Deacon René Laprise said, is decided on case-by-case basis by the diocese or religious order to which a priest belongs.
Two years ago, the Vatican revealed that over the previous decade it had defrocked 848 priests who sexually abused children and imposed less serious penalties on another 2,572 priests.
Published on May 18, 2016