The child sexual abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Montreal has somehow gone from bad to worse without any change in the number of victims because a priest has been creating obstacles for the people policing the Catholic Church.
A new report obtained by CBC News found that the lawyer tasked with helping the Catholic Church in Montreal be more transparent when it comes to abuse allegations has discovered that Church leaders were sabotaging her efforts.
Marie Christine Kirouack was appointed by the Archdiocese as an ombudsman in May of 2021. Much like some larger newspapers hire a public editor to serve as an independent check on their work, Kirouack was going to oversee the Church’s handling of complaints. But when she began digging into older allegations, she began hitting roadblocks.
Although the complaint process is supposed to be confidential, Kirouack said the priest, who is not named in her report, was sharing emails with a person outside the archdiocese.
The emails revealed the names of complainants, the names of people who are the subject of complaints and exchanges with an external investigation firm.
All of the leaked complaints concerned allegations of abuse, including sexual and psychological abuse.
Kirouack said she also learned the same priest had failed to notify her about one complaint and in another, told a complainant not to contact her. He told both complainants he would handle them himself — a violation of protocol.
Kirouack reported that behavior to other leaders in the Archdiocese, but it took another three months before that priest was “relieved of his duties.” Even that doesn’t go far enough, though, because he still works for the Church in other capacities.
Kirouack also found that some allegations weren’t followed up with in a timely manner; some suspensions and investigations were also delayed. This wasn’t just a problem involving a single priest; several other Church leaders were dragging their feet when it came to taking action.
All of this makes it less likely that victims will come forward with their stories. The Church’s ability to downplay or ignore abuse allegations, even while a watchdog investigates over their shoulders, is no comfort to those who were hoping the Archdiocese would fix itself. Kirouack vows to stay on the job and continue pushing the institution in a better direction, but when she isn’t allowed to do a thorough investigation, it’s hard to have hope in the process.
This is the same Archdiocese, by the way, that instituted a new rule in 2017 that priests and volunteers wouldn’t be allowed to work with children by themselves… even after passing a digital background check. Church leaders didn’t trust other Church leaders to not abuse kids.
It’s now apparent that the distrust existed for good reason.
By the way, in her latest report, Kirouack writes that since her appointment in May of 2021, there have been 64 complaints of abuse, “41 of which concern sexual abuse.” The Catholic Church loves to pretend these problems are all decades old. They’re not. They’re still happening today. You have to wonder why any Catholic parent would trust their children to be left alone with priests when even the Church doesn’t seem to give a damn about their safety.