LONDON, Ont. (Oct. 28, 2008) — A half dozen men claiming they were molested as altar boys by a priest who served in southwestern Ontario have filed lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Diocese of London.
The six men have each filed $2-million lawsuits against the diocese in connection with alleged sexual misconduct by Rev. Lawrence Paquette, who died in 1986.
The allegations, which have not been proven in court, range from fondling to sex acts. The alleged incidents took place between the mid-1950s and early 1970s.
Five of the six men claim the abuse happened while Paquette served in Grande Pointe, Ont., between 1955 and 1967.
One of the plaintiffs claims the abuse began in 1957, when he was about nine years old.
“On many occasions over the following four years, Paquette repeatedly sexually abused, assaulted and molested the plaintiff, exposed him to prurient sexual behaviour,’’ says the statement of claim.
These actions occurred on premises owned or controlled by the diocese, the statement says.
“In order to facilitate the abuses Paquette engaged in a pattern of behaviour which was intended to make the plaintiff feel that he was special in the eyes of Paquette, the Church and God,’’ another claim states.
Lawyer Rob Talach, of Ledroit Beckett, the London, Ont., firm handling the lawsuits, said not much is known about Paquette or his career.
“These victims therefore seek the assistance of the public in their pursuit of the truth,’’ he said. “There are many questions which remain unanswered.’’
Mark Adkinson, director of communications for the diocese, said when the first lawsuit was filed in January, the diocese conducted an investigation, notified parish communities and appealed to the public for information.
“That was the first time we had received any allegations of sexual misconduct by Father Lawrence Paquette,’’ he said.
He added that no reference to sexual misconduct was found in any diocesan records.
Insp. George Flikweert, head of the Chatham-Kent Police Service’s major crime unit, said “no one has ever come forward to lodge a complaint’’ against Paquette.
Wayne Thibert, 52, who filed the first lawsuit related to abuse by Paquette in January, said he also hopes going public will empower others to step out of the shadows of sexual abuse.
Thibert disclosed the incidents after his father’s death, when he overheard his mother and aunt talking about what a great priest Paquette was.
“It triggered that memory,’’ he said Monday, adding he couldn’t stand the thought of his abuser being remembered in such a positive light.
Gerald Joseph Lozon hadn’t heard from his brother Reginald in 18 years.
When Reginald, 62, finally called him it was to talk about the sexual molestation he suffered at the hands of a priest.
Reginald told Gerald, 60, about the alleged abuse details that hit close to home.
Gerald said Paquette also abused him when he served as an altar boy 50 years ago.
Gerald never knew his brother had also been molested. He thought he was the only one.
“That was the first time he even talked about it,’’ Gerald recalled.
After discussing their memories, the brothers decided to come forward.