Londoner Alleges Abuse by Priest, Sues for $3.1M Suit

July 21, 2005

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SUDBURY -- A London man told a news conference yesterday how he was allegedly controlled, brutalized and raped by a priest when he was a boy in the northeastern Ontario town of Warren.

"I'm not lying down any more in bed saying I want to die," Robert Berube said of his determination to heal, hold the church accountable and help other victims.

Father Jean-Claude Etienne has been dead for nearly eight years, but the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie could still end up paying for his alleged sexual abuse and assault of Berube more than 30 years ago.

London-based law firm Ledroit Beckett has filed a statement of claim seeking $3.1 million in damages as compensation for the suffering Etienne allegedly inflicted on Berube.

The diocese has not yet filed a statement of defence in the case.

"I can tell you very simply that we have a protocol and we will follow our protocol," Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe said yesterday. "In this particularly case, we respect the route chosen by the plaintiff and his legal counsel and, as the procedure unfolds, we hope to be provided with more information."

Berube was 13 in 1969 when the alleged abuse began.

He claims it went on continuously for 3 1/2 years.

Before the abuse began, he was a model child, Berube said.

Afterwards, he became a struggling student, a moody troublemaker and a miserable teenager on the wrong side of the law.

"Right up to the abuse, I was the model child and the model student, top of the class," he said. "During the abuse, my high school marks went down. My behaviour changed. I had problems with authorities."

Berube is going public, he said, because he believes there are more victims of the priest living in the area.

"When you are a little boy growing up in Warren, in a mostly French community, you are scared, you're embarrassed," he said, explaining why he told no one of the abuse when he was a boy.

"I knew if I had told my mother it would have destroyed her and I think it would have destroyed my father. So I kept it secret."

Berube, 50, said he became a workaholic to avoid facing the damage he suffered in his youth, but in recent years he could no longer keep his pain inside.

He said he no longer believes in the Catholic Church as an organization, although he continues to believe in a higher power.

"I'm working with people now, trying to tell the good Catholics, 'Watch out, your kids could be next.' "

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