Roman Catholic Church faces human-rights case over dismissal of employee


Ginette Chaumont says she devoted her life to the Roman Catholic Church, forgoing marriage and a family to serve for 22 years as the assistant to a series of Ottawa archbishops before menopause left her depressed, disorganized and inefficient.


Ms. Chaumont, who is now 59, recognized her failings and tried to compensate by working unpaid overtime. But, in November, 2011, she was summoned to a meeting with Monsignor Kevin Beach. “He told me at that time that I was being dismissed,” she told The Globe and Mail on Monday. “He said the Archbishop no longer had any confidence in my doing his work.”

Stripped of the demanding job that had been her “compass point,” and unable to find new employment despite sending out hundreds of resumes, she has launched a human-rights case against the church which she said still “means everything to me.”

The problems she experienced in 2011 were not Ms. Chaumont’s first bout with mental issues. She was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2005, but was treated and the symptoms subsided – until she hit menopause in the winter before her dismissal.

The church that had paid for her master’s degree in canon law, from which she says she received multiple commendations for excellent service, was not getting the best she had to offer. But “I didn’t really feel comfortable asking for accommodations a second time,” she explained.

Church officials did not raise their concerns until she was suddenly cut loose, Ms. Chaumont said. “Basically, my whole life revolved around the church and, once my job was gone, it was like I was left facing nothing.”

For its part, the church says there is no foundation to her claim of discrimination. “The Archdiocese is prepared to defend its position before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario,” Sarah Du Broy, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese, said in an e-mail.

In its response to Ms. Chaumont’s human-rights complaint, the Archdiocese says she was advised during the termination meeting that, when she came back from her summer vacation in 2011, “she had returned to the problematic patterns of behaviour she previous exhibited.” And “given that she did not correct the problematic behaviours which had previously been addressed with her, her employment was being terminated.”

But Ms. Chaumont’s lawyer, Alan Riddell, said courts and tribunals say every employer must try to accommodate employees in cases of illness. Yet “this employer, the Archdiocese, didn’t lift a finger to accommodate the symptoms of the disability and the menopause,” he said. “The medical literature confirms that there is a very strong link in many women between diminished concentrative powers and efficiency and organization in the workplace and the onset of menopause.”

Mr. Riddell also pointed to the recent case of an Ottawa priest named Rev. Joe LeClair, a diagnosed pathological gambler who was convicted of stealing $130,000 from his church over the course of five years. Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast has said that, when Father LeClair has served his time, he will assist the priest in returning to his ministry.

“Unlike Father Joe, she never stole or lied to anyone,” Mr. Riddell said of Ms. Chaumont.

The message the Archbishop is sending to the community, said the lawyer, “is that, if you are a male priest, you will be forgiven and reinstated to the payroll, no matter what laws you break and how much money you steal. But, if you are a female assistant who leads a good Catholic life, as Ms. Chaumont did for all of her 60 years, you will be dumped onto the street just as fast as Hell can scorch a feather, just as soon as you run into serious health problems.”

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Child sex abuse royal commission: Cardinal George Pell gives testimony in Sydney


Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal George Pell, has told an inquiry into child sexual abuse he should have exercised greater oversight in the case of a victim who sued the Church.

Cardinal PellThe hearing room at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney is packed to capacity as Cardinal Pell gives his highly anticipated testimony.

It comes after two weeks of evidence from Catholic Church officials who have recalled their involvement in the case of John Ellis, who was abused by Sydney priest Father Aidan Duggan in the 1970s.

There are conflicting accounts of what Cardinal Pell, the former archbishop of Sydney, knew about the case when Mr Ellis sued the Church.

Mr Ellis lost his case in 2007, when the New South Wales Court of Appeal ruled the Church was not a legal entity that could be sued – the so-called Ellis defence.

Last week Cardinal Pell’s private secretary, Dr Michael Casey, told the commission the Church’s vigorous cross-examination of Mr Ellis during the litigation process was wrong.

Dr Casey last Thursday faced hours of intense questioning about the Church’s handling of Mr Ellis’s claim during which he said Cardinal Pell had directed the legal team to be aggressive in its cross-examination.

The commission has also been told Cardinal Pell took months to stop pursuing court costs.

In a statement tendered to the royal commission this morning, Cardinal Pell says the “legal battle was hard fought, perhaps too well fought by our legal representatives”.

“I would now say, looking back, that these legal measures, although effective, were disproportionate to the objective and to the psychological state of Mr Ellis as I now better understand it,” the statement read.

“I realise I should have exercised more regular and stringent oversight through my chancellor(s).”

Pell denies involvement in compensation discussions

Cardinal Pell has told the inquiry he was not involved in discussions about compensation for Mr Ellis.

The Cardinal has denied claims from former chancellor of the Sydney Archdiocese, Monsignor Brian Rayner, that he was involved in discussions about money.

Counsel Assisting the Commission, Gail Furness, put to Cardinal Pell that Monsignor Rayner “received information from you in relation to the offers he made in respect of Mr Ellis’s complaint”.

He told the hearing he was aware of the allegations, but that they were incorrect.

“I certainly did not participate in any extended discussion on this matter,” he told the hearing.

“I certainly did not nominate any amount of money. There’s a whole lot of things wrong with that account. There was no cap.”

Cardinal Pell also denied claims he rejected a compensation request when Mr Ellis lost his job.

“That I would agree to offer him $5,000 extra by way of compensation, I regard as grotesque,” he said.

There was a round of applause in the hearing room when Cardinal Pell was challenged to back up a claim.

“You’ve said that in quite a number of cases, for example, in schools, the incidents are found not to be validated,” Ms Furness told Cardinal Pell.

“I call for the data that supports that evidence.”

Vatican gave accused ‘benefit of the doubt’

Before turning to the Ellis case, the commission questioned Cardinal Pell about the culture of the Church in the 1990s.

Cardinal Pell agreed that before the Towards Healing pastoral and redress scheme was established in the mid-1990s, some priests were moved between dioceses in the event of an abuse complaint.

“Unfortunately that was the case,” he said. If that happened, it would be very much by way of exception.”

He told the hearing the Holy See took a sceptical approach to complaints of abuse and the accused were given “the benefit of the doubt”.

“The attitude of some people at the Vatican was that if accusations were being made against priests, they were made exclusively or at least predominantly by enemies of the Church to make trouble and therefore they should be dealt with sceptically,” he said.

“I think there was more of an inclination to give the benefit of the doubt to the defendant rather than listen seriously to the complaints.”

Cardinal Pell also told the commission that sentiments similar to those in the Vatican were present among some in the Australian arm of the Church in the early 1990s.

“Not to anything like the same degree, I don’t think, but it is a little bit difficult to know what people think on these issues unless they are discussed directly or they are challenged on them,” Cardinal Pell said.

“I never heard – I think in many ways, the English-speaking world made a significant contribution to the universal church in this area.

“In dealing adequately with this, whatever the deficiencies, I think we were ahead of some countries.”

He said when he became Archbishop of Melbourne he “moved very vigorously no improve what was a chaotic situation” surrounding the handling of abuse claims.

Abuse survivors listen closely to Pell’s evidence

The walls outside the royal commission have been covered in placards from victim support groups, calling on Cardinal Pell to be accountable for his actions and detail his role in the Ellis legal proceedings.

Child abuse survivors said they would watch Cardinal Pell’s appearance with great interest.

Dr Cathy Kezelman, the president of the group Adults Surviving Child Abuse, said there needed to be some clarity around the issue.

“We’re all waiting to see what the archbishop’s role was in this case and there’s been conflicting evidence to date. What we know is that John Ellis suffered enormously through this,” she said.

“We had an internal church process that acknowledged he’d been abused and yet when he sought a civil claim that was brought into question.”

Care Leavers Australia Network chief executive Leonie Sheedy said her organisation was eagerly anticipating the Cardinal’s evidence.

“It’s so long overdue,” she said. “I feel so sad about what happened to John Ellis and all those other people who have tried to get justice for the crimes that were committed against them.

“They call it the Ellis defence, but it should be called the Pell defence.

“He’s going to go down in history as the person who denied people justice.”

After his testimony, Cardinal Pell is expected to leave Australia for Rome to take on a new senior role at the Vatican, which includes responsibility for preparing the Vatican’s annual budget, as well as financial planning and enhanced internal controls.

The hearing continues.

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Priest in Pike County sex case promoted after move to Paraguay

By Beth Brelje

A Roman Catholic priest who was accused of molesting boys in Shohola and Moscow, Pa., has been promoted to the No. 2 position in his diocese in Paraguay.

That is according to a database released this week, listing Catholic clergy from Argentina involved in sex abuse cases. The database was compiled by, an organization that aims to keep a record of sex abuse in the Catholic Church.escudo_livieres_color

Former Bishop Joseph Martino of the Diocese of Scranton allowed the Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity to transfer to a parish in the South American country of Paraguay after multiple witness statements in several court cases claimed that Urrutigoity routinely slept in bed with and had sex with boys in his care, calling it spiritual guidance.

Currently, Urrutigoity is vicar general of the Ciudad del Este diocese in Paraguay. That makes him the second in command, just under the bishop there. Part of his job is to investigate any claim of sexual abuse that might come to the diocese.

“Now he is in a position of power. I’m concerned for the children of Paraguay. From everything I’ve learned, Father Carlos has not stopped. This is a basic child protection issue,” said Patrick Wall, a former priest who is now a Minnesota-based advocate for victims of sexual abuse by clergy.

Between 1950 and the present, 6,193 Roman Catholic priests have sexually assaulted children, according to Wall.

“In my experience, if you allow a guy who has sexual proclivity for children to go unchecked, he will abuse several hundred children in his professional life as a priest,” Wall said.

Allegations of local abuse

A 2002 federal lawsuit was brought in the Middle District of Pennsylvania by “John Doe,” a student at St. Gregory’s Academy in Moscow, against Urrutigoity, the Rev. Eric Ensey, and then-Bishop James Timlin of the Diocese of Scranton.

The suit alleged that Urrutigoity and Ensey offered “spiritual direction” to the student by sleeping with him and that both priests sexually assaulted him at Saint Gregory’s Academy and at a Shohola property that was supposed to be developed into a Catholic college and village for the Society of Saint John, founded by Urrutigoity. The society was focused on celebrating Mass in Latin.

S.E.R. Mons Rogelio Livieres PlanoTestimony in the 2002 case brought at least three similar claims of bed-sharing and sexual advances to light.

In 2002, Timlin suspended Urrutigoity and Ensey from their ministries and sent them to Southdown Institute in Canada for psychological evaluations.

Southdown specializes in treating clergy who have sexual boundary problems.

Minutes from a March 2002 Diocese of Scranton independent review board summarize evaluations by Southdown Institute:

The institute “strongly recommended that (Ensey) undergo residential treatment to address severe anxiety and depression” that was the result of repressed sexuality. The evaluation said Ensey’s sexual attraction toward adolescent boys is “a stage he appears to be locked into.”

And it recommended Ensey “be strictly prohibited from any public ministry of any kind; he should have no contact with any young person.”

The evaluation of Urrutigoity said: “In view of the credible allegation from the seminarian (John Doe), his admitted practice of sleeping with boys and young men and the troubling evaluation by the Southdown Institute, Father Carlos Urrutigoity should be removed from active ministry; his faculties should be revoked; he should be asked to live privately.”

Despite these recommendations, their priesthoods did not end.

The Scranton diocese settled the John Doe case in 2006, reportedly for more than $400,000.

Due to the sex scandal and funding issues, plans for the college and village on the Shohola property were abandoned by the diocese and the land was sold to a private party.

Timlin retired as bishop in 2003.

In 2004, Martino became bishop. He allowed Urrutigoity to transfer to Paraguay, where he was promoted to monsignor as of 2012.

As of February 2014, Urrutigoity was promoted to vicar general.

“This is a grand example of a worldwide policy that a priest can sexually abuse kids in another country and go somewhere else and become vicar general of the diocese,” Wall said, adding that Bishop Plano, Urrutigoity’s superior, should report him to the police and kick him out of the priesthood.

“This is not a God issue, this is a problem with people who pretend to believe in God who are involved in criminal conduct,” Wall said.

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