Black Collar CrimesClergy Crimes

April 2001 –
February 2002


  • Canada
  • France
  • Grenada
  • Ireland
  • Poland



    WINNIPEG - A Manitoba Court of Appeal decision has wiped out an estimated 1,000 lawsuits by aboriginal people who claim they were abused as children in residential schools. A panel of five judges has ruled Margaret Moar and Donald Raymond Catcheway cannot proceed with their lawsuits because more than 30 years has passed since the alleged abuse. ``In short, it wipes out 99 per cent of the claims,'' said lawyer Bill Percy, who heads a loosely-based group of local lawyers with clients who attended residential schools.

    ``This is a travesty of justice,'' said Dennis White Bird, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. ``It only goes to follow what we've said in the past - the courts lack a social conscience when it comes to native people.'' Moar and Raymond attended the Pine Creek Indian Residential School for several years in the 1930s, '40s and '50s and claim they were physically and sexually assaulted while students. Named in the lawsuits were Les Oblats de Marie Immaculee du Manitoba, Oblate Sisters de Saint Boniface, the Roman Catholic Church of Canada, the Attorney General of Canada, the Archdiocese of St. Boniface, several priests and a nun. In November 1999, Queen's Bench Justice Perry Schulman ruled the suits could be heard by a court despite a 30-year time limit set out in the Limitation of Actions Act for such cases.

    In a written statement, the Oblates of Manitoba said they ``do not condone or excuse abusive behaviour of the nature that has been alleged by some former students.'' But because some allegations date back more than 70 years, the group's members ``find themselves unable to validate the allegations and deal with them accordingly.''

    The Oblates said they will continue to try to resolve residential school claims in Manitoba and other provinces outside of the courts. The federal government issued a formal apology in January, 1998 for forcing more than 100,000 native children to attend residential school across Canada up until the 1960s. Thousands of lawsuits have since been filed from coast to coast.
    Canadian Press, 9/29/01

    WOODSTOCK, Ontario - A former Catholic priest pleaded guilty to sexually abusing an altar boy 25 years ago. Thomas Cromiem, 68, was to be sentenced July 27 on charges of indecent assault and gross indecency dating back to the period between Jan. 1, 1975, and March. The victim, who is now 40 and lives in British Columbia, cannot be identified due to a court-ordered publication ban. He was not present when Cromiem's defence lawyer acknowledged the details of the sexual assaults that took place while the victim was an altar boy at St. Rita's Rectory in Woodstock.

    A letter, described as "being porno filthy," written by the victim to Cromiem was discovered by the victim's adoptive father. After reading the letter, the victim's father confronted Cromiem in a letter telling him that he was aware of the relationship.
    London Free Press, 6/5/01



    PARIS - A court annulled the manslaughter conviction of a Catholic priest on legal grounds and ordered his retrial over the deaths of 4 boys at his summer camp in 1998.

    The Cour de Cassation, which does not rule on the case itself but rather its legal basis, said a recent law limiting the reach of manslaughter charges made Fr. Jean-Yves Cottard's conviction unreliable.

    Cottard, 53, a leading figure in a traditionalist Roman Catholic movement that has broken with the Vatican, was given an 18-month jail sentence with a further two-and-a-half-years' suspended sentence in 1999 after the boys drowned.

    The boys, aged between 12 and 16, and a sailor who tried to save them drowned in July 1998 after their boat - overloaded with 7 boys - capsized in rough seas in the Channel. Cottard had no qualification to teach sailing.

    Cottard admitted to police the boys had twice failed to complete a 20-km (12 mile) trip along the Brittany coast before he sent them out on their third and fatal attempt.

    His case will be sent back to the appeals court in Poitiers, central France, to face a new trial on the basis of a law introduced in July 2000, which aims to prevent people not directly linked to accidents being tried for manslaughter.

    Although Cottard was convicted before July 2000, he was still contesting the verdict when it came into force. The Cour de Cassation ruled the law was therefore applicable.
    Reuters, 10/09/01

    CAEN - A court handed down a three-month suspended prison sentence on a Roman Catholic bishop for failing to inform police that a priest in his diocese had admitted having sexually abused children.

    Bp. Pierre Pican, 67, of the Bayeux-Lisieux diocese, was tried in the northwestern city of Caen. He was accused of covering up for a priest who has since been jailed for 18 years for the rape of a boy and sexual abuse of 10 others between 1989 and 1996.

    Pican told the court he confronted Fr. Rene Bissey in Jan. 1997 and that it was during this private conversation that Bissey admitted sexually abusing children. But, instead of informing the police, Pican said, he sent Bissey on a retreat and then made him seek psychiatric help. He transferred Bissey to a nearby parish in Sept. 1998 but the priest was arrested on pedophilia charges a few days later.

    Bissey's admissions were not made in a church confessional, which is covered by a French law respecting the secrecy of information divulged to a priest under such conditions.

    Pican's lawyers argued professional secrecy laws gave him the right to not divulge the information but the court threw out the argument, saying they did not apply when child protection was at issue.

    The guilty verdict and sentencing has set a precedent in France in terms of how far professional secrecy can legally extend and was welcomed by the victims' lawyer.

    "It is the first time a bishop has been sentenced since the French Revolution," Pican's lawyer said. The last time a bishop was convicted of anything in France was in 1841 in Angers, but, then, it was over a murder by a priest in his diocese.

    Bissey is one of nearly 30 priests in France convicted over the past decade of pedophilia, according to the conference. Eleven received prison terms. Another 20 pedophilia-related cases involving priests are pending.
    Reuters, AP, 9/4/01



    ST. GEORGE'S -On Feb. 1, Robby-Ann Jeremiah, 15, was found dead - strangled and dumped in the bushes above the white sand beaches of True Blue Bay.

    Although her death shocked this gentle Caribbean nation, even more shocking to this religious people is that a prominent churchman has been jailed and charged with her murder.

    Abp. Edmund Gilbert of the Spiritual Baptist Faith Church, which claims more than a million members in the Caribbean and New York City was a trusted government tax collector and a ruling party member.

    But there was another Edmund Gilbert, Robby-Ann told people before she died--a man who had loved her and tormented her for years.

    By all accounts, Gilbert was no simple country preacher. Most Grenadians believe that his alleged abuse went unchecked because of his political clout.

    In the mid-1990s, Gilbert established the Holy Temple of the Unicorn, on the outskirts of St. George's. He won back an old job as tax collector. But Gilbert was equally effective at politics. "He made himself powerful because of who he was friends with and what he did," said a reporter for the weekly Grenadian Voice. Yet an editorial in the paper charged, "Reports suggest that even more evidence exists to prove that the molestation and sexual, as well as physical, abuse of young girls has been a longtime practice of this despicable character masquerading as a man of God."

    Beverly Reece, one of Robby-Ann's teachers, who had frequent dealings with the pastor, said, "I remember when I was girl, my mother wouldn't let me ride in this man's car alone."

    She added: "In his church, he's like Jim Jones of Jonestown. He takes control of people's lives." She described the pastor's attitude toward Robby-Ann as an obsession: He told the teachers precisely the measurements of her school uniform, touching her thigh as he did so. He once beat her on the beach next to the school when he caught her talking to a boy, Reece said.

    Now Gilbert awaits trial. If convicted, he could face death by hanging. His lawyer confirmed that the pastor has joined two of his sons in jail--both serving prison terms for rape.

    Gilbert does not face charges connected to the abuse allegations.

    Social workers, teachers and others who spent time with the girl before her slaying say they first learned of her allegations in Dec., two months before her killing. She had run away from her grandmother's home. Her teachers found her walking the streets of this capital city, and, for the first time, she told them about the abuse. Robby-Ann named Gilbert as her tormentor, they later recalled, adding that she said she feared for her life.

    The teachers referred her to social workers, who placed her in the private Bel Air Home for troubled girls. But the archbishop allegedly persisted. A Dec. 18 letter from Sharon Davis, who runs the home, to the governmental Child Welfare Authority alleged abuse and stated that "Pastor Gilbert" had "overwhelmed" the home with calls and visits. He even called Davis at home, pressing her on why Robby-Ann was at Bel Air, demanding to know whom the girl had spoken to, what she had said and whom she had named, Davis recalled. She sought an emergency protection order for the girl, saying it might save her life.

    No such order was issued. Two days before Christmas, Robby-Ann returned to her grandmother's care. Six weeks later, she was dead.
    Times, 4/7/01



    CORK - A retired member of an Irish religious order jailed for 36 years after admitting 18 child sex offences, head for the UK after being released early.

    James Kelly, 75, known as Brother Ambrose when he worked at a boys home, had served just 18 months in prison before the review of his sentence. He has had the balance of his sentence suspended by a court.

    When released next Feb., Kelly will leave Ireland and be under the constant supervision and care of his Brothers of Charity religious order in the UK. He has not been immediately released as he is still completing a sentence imposed previously for sex offences committed in Galway.

    At his trial in 1999, he initially denied the charges but later admitted 18 sample counts of sex abuse against three boys in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He was given consecutive two-year sentences on each charge.

    The judge has now said that the court has a duty to recognise that Kelly had "come to his senses long before any charges were levelled against him" and to show charity and justice, even though those qualities had not been shown to Kelly's victims.

    The original sentence had underlined the court's abhorrence of the crimes committed. After the new development, one of Kelly's victims, now an adult, said he felt "let down" by what had happened.
    Annanova, 6/15/01

    KILKENNY - Irish police exhumed the body of a teenaged boy who died over 30 years ago, as part of an investigation into sexual and physical abuse at a Roman Catholic reform school. The examination showed skull damage on the remains of William Delaney, who died in 1970 at the age of 13 and was buried in a cemetery in his hometown of Kilkenny, southwest of Dublin.

    The decision to disinter the body was taken after fellow pupils at the school - run by the Christian Brothers order - alleged that Delaney had been beaten shortly before he left the institution for summer holidays in 1970.

    Delaney, who had been sent to the school at the age of 9 on a court order, complained of a headache on arrival at his parents' home in July 1970, collapsing and dying shortly afterwards. His family believed meningitis to be the cause of death.

    Police have been investigating allegations of abuse of boys at the Letterfrack reformatory since 1996, and have taken statements from dozens of former inmates. The school closed in the mid-1970s.

    It is estimated some 120 children died in Ireland's reform schools, known for their harsh discipline, between the 1930s and 1970s, reports said.
    Reuters, 4/19/01, 4/18



    WARSAW - The Catholic Church here has confirmed that the Vatican is looking into allegations of sexual harassment leveled against the Archbishop of Poznan, one of the highest ranking church officials in Pope John Paul II's homeland.

    The allegations surfaced Saturday in Poland's Rzeczpospolita newspaper, which reported that Apb. Juliusz Paetz, 67, has been accused by numerous priests and clerics of sexual harassment.

    Paetz, who is recovering from illness according to his spokesman, denied the allegations and claimed they were part of a campaign to defame him.

    Paetz worked in the Vatican 1967-1976 in the Bishops Synod Secretariat. He was nominated bishop in 1982 and archbishop in 1996 by John Paul II.

    In its front-page accusation, Rzeczpospolita said the archbishop had frequently used a 200-meter underground passageway connecting his palace to seminarians' lodgings to pay them unannounced visits.

    Police had carried out a preliminary inquiry but could not launch a full-scale investigation unless a formal complaint were filed. Prominent Catholics were divided over how the handle the controversy.
    Reuters, 2/23/02



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