N.S. Man Sues Catholic Diocese Over Alleged Abuse

October 8, 2009

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A Cape Breton man who claims he was molested as an altar boy by a Catholic priest has pulled out of a class action lawsuit settlement to file his own civil claim.

Philip Latimer, 47, filed his own lawsuit against the diocese of Antigonish and the archdiocese of Halifax on Wednesday, instead of joining the landmark $15-million settlement for people who were sexually abused by priests in Antigonish since the 1950s.

Antigonish is the diocese where Bishop Raymond Lahey used to be Archbishop. Lahey helped orchestrate the settlement and is now facing child pornography charges in Ottawa. In a 22-page claim, Latimer alleges he was sexually molested in the mid-1970s by a different priest, Rev.

Allan MacDonald, for four years when he was around 11 years old in the seaside community of Havre Boucher. MacDonald has since died. The allegations in the lawsuit have not been proven in court.

In a Thursday morning news conference, Latimer told reporters he is seeking $2 million but that what he really wants is answers. Latimer says the settlement orchestrated with the help of Bishop Lahey is unfair to the victims and fails to allow proper investigation into the diocese's actions.

Latimer's lawyer says his client wants a full investigation and exposure of the diocese's awareness and reaction to the problem of sexually abusive priests in the Antigonish diocese.

"I would suspect the people of this province and the people of this particular diocese want to know what went on, want to know how deep the rot was, or is, and need to know," lawyer Rob Talach told reporters at a Thursday news conference in Halifax announcing the lawsuit.

"If we're all happy to pay off everyone and move on, then things are great. But if you want more, you have to ask for more, and I think that's what Mr. Latimer is doing here today."

The lawsuit's statement of claim alleges the dioceses failed to investigate MacDonald's "background, character and psychological state," or warn supervisors and parishioners of his "difficulties as a priest."

The suit also alleges the dioceses fostered rules and ideologies in which "deviant sexual practices were bound to develop among a percentage of the priests."

Neither diocese has reacted to the allegations in the claim. Lahey says he decided to launch his suit after hearing that Lahey was recently charged in Ottawa with importing and possessing child pornography after Border Service Agency examined his laptop computer and allegedly found images "of concern."

He says the arrest made him question the integrity of the settlement. "That triggered something within me," Latimer told reporters. "I was putting it out of my mind as best I could, but when the man that orchestrated the deal was no different than the men who committed the crime allegedly... that did it, that did it for me," he said.

The settlement is intended to compensate anyone who was allegedly and known to have been sexually assaulted by Catholic priests in Antigonish since Jan. 1, 1950.

Latimer wants to alert other victims that there is a Dec. 4, 2009 deadline for opting out of the settlement. He hopes others will join him in speaking out. "As of Dec. 4, if no one else steps out and reveals the truth about the things that are going to be hidden. They can never step out again," he told Canada AM earlier Thursday.

"[Halifax Archbishop Anthony] Mancini says this is a time of healing. But the healing will start and stop on Dec. 4. If they truly want healing they wouldn't put a timeframe on it." Latimer added that the abuse destroyed his life and his Catholic faith. He hopes others will hold on to their beliefs. "Don't lose faith in God. We have lost faith in the Church. But I'm going to ask you: don't leave your church. You can't trust men but you can trust God," he said.

He added: "It's not easy to come out and reveal things that are very hard to speak about in public and put themselves in a vulnerable state. I'm doing it myself and realize it's not easy."

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