Mounties lay new charge against Oblate priest, Inuit delegates ask Pope to intervene

By Kelly Geraldine Malone

Mounties have laid a new charge against a Roman Catholic priest who has previously avoided trial for multiple allegations of sexual abuse linked to his time in Nunavut.

RCMP said a Canada-wide arrest warrant has been issued for Johannes Rivoire, who is in his 90s and lives in Lyon, France.

“It’s about time,” Piita Irniq, an Inuit elder who has been fighting for more than a decade to have Rivoire returned to Canada, said Tuesday from Ottawa.

Nunavut RCMP said officers received a complaint last year regarding sexual assaults that occurred about 47 years ago.

Mounties said Rivoire was charged last month with sexual assault on a female.

The latest development in the investigation of the Oblate priest comes after the leader of the national organization representing the Inuit asked Pope Francis to intervene in the case during a meeting at the Vatican on Monday.

Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said he asked the Pope to “speak with Father Rivoire directly and ask him to go to Canada to face the charges.” Obed also asked the Pope to request that France step in if Rivoire is not receptive.

Rivoire was in Canada from the early 1960s to 1993, when he returned to France.

A warrant was issued for his arrest in 1998. He faced at least three charges of sexual abuse in the Nunavut communities of Arviat, Rankin Inlet and Naujaat. More than two decades later, the charges were stayed.

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada said at the time it was partly due to France’s reluctance to extradite.

Inuit leaders and politicians from senators to Nunavut premiers have continued to urge that the priest face trial. Those calls have grown with the discovery of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools run by the Catholic Church.

Bishop William McGrattan, vice-president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Monday that “justice and truth are important in this path of reconciliation.” He said Pope Francis heard that bringing the priest to Canada to face justice is important.

“The church wants to work with the relevant justice authorities, whether they be international or Canadian,” he said.

“And if there are allegations that someone has committed these abuses, that they need to be brought to justice and the church should not stand in their way but assist those who have been victims to seek justice and healing.”

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the order of which Rivoire was a member, has invited Obed for a meeting at its office in Rome on Thursday to discuss the case.

Irniq said there are at least six Inuit still living who allege Rivoire abused them. Word of the new charge is spreading quickly, he said.

“They’re happy that things are moving along,” he said. “There’s been a lot of press and a lot of talk, so I think the people I’ve talked to are very hopeful.

“It feels more like justice.”

Marius Tungilik was Irniq’s childhood friend and comrade in the struggle for Inuit self-determination. Tungilik, who died in 2012, claimed he was abused by Rivoire and was among the first Inuit to speak out about what he had suffered at residential school.

Irniq said his long fight to have Rivoire extradited was fuelled by the desire to see justice for his old friend.

“I kind of made a promise to Marius that one day I would I do something to make this happen.

“Marius would say the same thing I did,” Irniq said. “Finally. It’s about time.”

Complete Article HERE!

The time is ripe for a clergy abuse inquiry in Latin America

There are growing hopes that, like many in Europe, Latin American nations will soon launch independent inquiries into historical cases of clerical sexual abuse.

By Adalberto Méndez López

Over the past few years, several countries in Europe have launched new inquiries into the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests.

Most recently, following the release of new data by the El Pais newspaper, Spain’s parliament approved the creation of an investigative commission led by the country’s ombudsperson, marking an unprecedented move in a Catholic-majority country that had remained largely silent on the issue for years. In France, a national inquiry found last year that an estimated 330,000 children have been sexually abused in Catholic institutions since 1950. Germany held multiple inquiries on the subject in recent years, while Poland, Portugal and the United Kingdom have investigations continuing. In Italy, too, abuse survivors are asking their government to launch a national inquiry, echoing a call made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2019.

While this current wave of inquiries in Europe follows in the footsteps of those previously held in countries like Canada, Ireland, Belgium and Australia, there are regions in the world where the political will to expose the truth and deliver justice to survivors remains largely stagnant or non-existent. This is particularly the case in Latin America, home to the world’s largest Catholic population, where no government has yet announced a national inquiry into the issue.

This is despite several estimates pointing to the scale of clergy abuse in Latin America being similar to that in Europe, and the region’s impressive history of conducting effective truth commissions in response to large-scale human rights abuses. But there are growing hopes that Latin American nations, too, will soon launch their own inquiries into historical cases of clerical sexual abuse, and deliver justice to those who have been longing to be heard for years if not decades.

When will Latin America follow suit?

What we are currently seeing in Europe is a domino effect, with one country’s inquiry into clergy abuse prompting another to respond by launching a similar investigation. And this effect is not something new. One of the first abuse inquiries took place in Canada in 1989, followed by similar and even bigger investigations in countries ranging from Ireland to Australia.

So now that more and more countries in Europe appear committed to addressing historical clergy abuse, holding the church to account, and preventing future abuse through new independent inquiries, there is reason to expect similar investigations to pop up in other regions.

There are already some promising signs in Latin America, as independent inquiries into the issue have already been proposed in three countries.

In 2018, a parliamentary commission investigating sexual abuse cases in the education system in Ecuador urged the president to establish a truth commission to look into sexual abuse of minors in schools, including those run by the Catholic Church. Earlier this year, Chile’s Survivors’ Network renewed its longstanding call for a truth commission to be established to investigate human rights abuses in all institutional settings, including the church, in the country. And in 2020, two Mexican senators, Germán Martínez and Malú Micher, bravely introduced a petition in parliament to create an independent commission to investigate clergy abuse.

I was an adviser to the senators whose move came after the emergence of a high-profile sexual abuse scandal in the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, a Mexico-based Roman Catholic clerical order, which admitted in 2019 that 175 children has been sexually abused by its clergy over eight decades, including at least 60 at the hands of its founding director, Marcial Maciel.

However, Martínez and Micher’s proposal for an independent inquiry was blocked by the government, whose close ties with Mexico’s Catholic Church mean it continues to protect religious officials even when they are accused of heinous crimes against children. But there is still reason to hope that the tide is beginning to turn in the region, and especially in Mexico.

The time is ripe for the first clergy abuse inquiry in Latin America

In Mexico, as in many other countries, one of the biggest obstacles to survivors of child sexual abuse accessing justice is the statutes of limitations applied to such crimes.

Statutes of limitations set the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated. In cases of child sexual abuse, survivors take an average of 24 years or more to come to terms with what happened to them and report the abuse they suffered. This means, by the time most survivors are ready to take legal action, the statutes of limitations have already blocked their path to seeking justice.

In Mexico, however, legal authorities are finally having discussions on the issue and considering taking action to right this wrong and allow survivors access to justice whenever they are ready and able. In January this year, Mexico’s Supreme Court announced that it will soon discuss whether a statute of limitations should continue to apply to cases of child sexual abuse.

While we hope the Court will abolish the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases, the fact that it is having this discussion is a positive development on its own, and signals that the issue is finally on the national agenda in Mexico.

As such, the time is ripe to pressure the government to stop protecting the Church from scrutiny, and listen to the growing calls for the establishment of a truth commission in Mexico to investigate historical sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in the country. But it is crucial to ensure that the inquiry would be independent and effective.

National inquiries not only establish an historical truth, but in doing so, they bear witness to the suffering of survivors, invite them to give their testimony and offer them a safe forum in which to recount their experience and be listened to with respect and sensitivity. Additionally, the recommendations of inquiry commissions can lead to long-sought legal reforms and redress schemes that aim to repair the harm suffered.

But not all inquiries are equal – some inquiries are undoubtedly more effective and legitimate than others. So it would not be enough for Mexico to simply launch an investigation into the issue – it also needs to adopt the right approach.

Spain, for instance, initially proposed launching a “parliamentary inquiry” into clergy abuse, but this suggestion led to criticism on the basis that representatives who would take part in the inquiry might not act independently of the political parties they represent. Then it was suggested the Public Prosecutor’s Office could investigate the issue, but this proposal was also not supported by many as it is known that most survivors are reluctant to talk to legal authorities due to trauma, shame and the fear of not being believed. Eventually the proposal for the inquiry to be led by the country’s ombudsperson – an independent official appointed to investigate complaints against companies or organisations – was accepted. While it was undoubtedly the best and most suitable of all proposals, research shows that ombudspersons typically lack the resources to conduct investigations of the scale of a national inquiry.

Rejecting all these options, Spanish survivor and fellow founding member of human rights organisation Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) Global Justice Project Miguel Hurtado, called for a well-funded truth commission composed of independent experts to be tasked with investigating the issue. Australia has adopted a similar approach in the past, and its Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which ran from 2013 to 2017, is widely considered the gold standard of abuse inquiries to this day.

In Mexico and wider Latin America efforts should focus not only on securing an inquiry into clergy abuse, but also ensuring that the eventual investigation is legitimate, meaningful and effective. An inquiry can also be specific to clergy abuse or have a broader scope and look at child sexual abuse across institutions, including the Catholic Church, as has already happened in many countries. And regardless of what body eventually conducts the inquiry – and the right setup and scope can understandably differ from country to country – the most important thing is to ensure the investigation and relevant proceedings are completely independent.

The Catholic Church cannot legitimately investigate itself, despite the insistence to the contrary by many high-ranking clergy. A common response by Catholic Bishops’ Conferences to national scandals is to announce the creation of a Church-led commission to receive and investigate complaints of alleged abuse. But such initiatives are riddled with accusations that they lack transparency and are institutionally biased, not to mention the Church’s history of covering up abuse and silencing victims to protect its own reputation.

It would be an historic moment – and perhaps an example to the rest of the region – if the Mexican Senate were to approve an independent truth commission into clergy abuse specifically or child sexual abuse across institutions on the back of the Supreme Court’s debate on abolishing the statute of limitations for such crimes. This is in no way a distant dream – many countries in which the Catholic Church is powerful and politically influential, from Spain to Ireland, have already done this. All that is needed is the political will of the current Mexican government.

But even if the Mexican government fails to respond soon, the survivors and their allies will not ease pressure. The issue is now being discussed widely in the media and also being raised routinely in international human rights forums. A case in point was when Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) secured the first public hearing on clergy abuse at the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in December 2020, where the cases of Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina were presented, and the commissioners expressed their commitment to ensuring it would hold states accountable to their international legal obligations to children’s rights.

The new wave of independent inquiries in Europe is a sign that clergy abuse survivors on the continent are one step closer to securing truth, justice and reparations. Change is also coming to Mexico and wider Latin America. And survivors and their allies will not give up on this fight until every nation takes the necessary steps to expose the truth, hold those responsible to account and ensure such suffering and pain is never inflicted on children again.

Complete Article HERE!

Indigenous leaders tell pope of abuses at Canada residential schools

President of the Metis community, Cassidy Caron, speaks to the media in St. Peter’s Square after their meeting with Pope Francis at The Vatican, Monday, March 28, 2022.


Indigenous leaders from Canada and survivors of the country’s notorious residential schools met with Pope Francis on Monday and told him of the abuses they suffered at the hands of Catholic priests and school workers. They came hoping to secure a papal apology and a commitment by the church to repair the harm done.

“While the time for acknowledgement, apology and atonement is long overdue, it is never too late to do the right thing,” Cassidy Caron, president of the Metis National Council, told reporters in St. Peter’s Square after the audience.

This week’s meetings, postponed from December because of the pandemic, are part of the Canadian church and government’s efforts to respond to Indigenous demands for justice, reconciliation and reparations — long-standing demands that gained traction last year after the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves outside some of the schools.

More than 150,000 native children in Canada were forced to attend state-funded Christian schools from the 19th century until the 1970s in an effort to isolate them from the influence of their homes and culture, and Christianize and assimilate them into mainstream society, which previous Canadian governments considered superior.

Francis set aside several hours this week to meet privately with the delegations from the Metis and Inuit on Monday, and First Nations on Thursday, with a mental health counselor in the room for each session. The delegates then gather Friday as a group for a more formal audience, with Francis delivering an address.

The encounters Monday included prayers in the Metis and Inuit languages and other gestures of deep symbolic significance. The Inuit delegation brought a traditional oil lamp, or qulliq, that is lit whenever Inuit gather and stayed lit in the pope’s library throughout the meeting. The Inuit delegates presented Francis with a sealskin stole and a sealskin rosary case.

The Metis offered Francis a pair of red beaded moccasins, “a sign of the willingness of the Metis people to forgive if there is meaningful action from the church,” the group explained. The red dye “represents that even though Pope Francis does not wear the traditional red papal shoes, he walks with the legacy of those who came before him, the good, the great and the terrible.”

In a statement, the Vatican said each meeting lasted about an hour “and was characterized by desire on the part of the pope to listen and make space for the painful stories brought by the survivors.”

The Canadian government has admitted that physical and sexual abuse was rampant at the schools, with students beaten for speaking their native languages. That legacy of that abuse and isolation from family has been cited by Indigenous leaders as a root cause of the epidemic rates of alcohol and drug addiction on Canadian reservations.

Nearly three-quarters of the 130 residential schools were run by Catholic missionary congregations.

Last May, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation announced the discovery of 215 gravesites near Kamloops, British Columbia, that were found using ground-penetrating radar. It was Canada’s largest Indigenous residential school and the discovery of the graves was the first of numerous, similar grim sites across the country.

Caron said Francis listened intently Monday as three of the many Metis survivors told him their personal stories of abuse at residential schools. The pope showed sorrow but offered no immediate apology. Speaking in English, he repeated the words Caron said she had emphasized in her remarks: truth, justice and healing.

“I take that as a personal commitment,” Caron said, surrounded by Metis fiddlers who accompanied her into the square.

She said what needs to follow is an apology that acknowledges the harm done, the return of Indigenous artifacts, a commitment to facilitating prosecutions of abusive priests and access to church-held records of residential schools.

Canadian Bishop Raymond Poisson, who heads the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, insisted the Vatican holds no such records and said they more likely are held by individual religious orders in Canada or at their headquarters in Rome.

Even before the grave sites were discovered, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission specifically called for a papal apology to be delivered on Canadian soil for the church’s role in the abuses. Francis has committed to traveling to Canada, though no date for such a visit has been announced.

“Primarily, the reconciliation requires action. And we still are in need of very specific actions from the Catholic Church,” said Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, who led the Inuit delegation.

He cited the reparations the Canadian church has been ordered to pay, access to records to understand the scope of the unmarked graves, as well as Francis’ own help to find justice for victims of a Catholic Oblate priest, the Rev. Johannes Rivoire, accused of multiple cases of sexual abuse who is currently living in France.

“We often as Inuit have felt powerless over time to sometimes correct the wrongs that have been done to us,” Obed said. “We are incredibly resilient and we are great at forgiving … but we are still in search of lasting respect and the right to self-determination and the acknowledgement of that right by the institutions that harmed us.”

As part of a settlement of a lawsuit involving the government, churches and the approximately 90,000 surviving students, Canada paid reparations that amounted to billions of dollars being transferred to Indigenous communities.

The Catholic Church, for its part, has paid over $50 million and now intends to add $30 million more over the next five years.

The Metis delegation made clear to Francis that the church-run residential school system, and the forced removal of children from their homes, facilitated the ability of Canada authorities to take indigenous lands while also teaching Metis children “that they were not to love who they are as Metis people,” Caron said.

“Our children came home hating who they were, hating their language, hating their culture, hating their tradition,” Caron said. “They had no love. But our survivors are so resilient. They are learning to love.”

The Argentine pope is no stranger to offering apologies for his own errors and what he himself has termed the “crimes” of the institutional church.

During a 2015 visit to Bolivia, he apologized for the sins, crimes and offenses committed by the church against Indigenous peoples during the colonial-era conquest of the Americas. In Dublin, Ireland, in 2018, he offered a sweeping apology to those sexually and physically abused over generations.

That same year, he met privately with three Chilean sex abuse survivors whom he had discredited by backing a bishop they accused of covering up their abuse. In a series of meetings that echo those now being held for the Canadian delegates, Francis listened, and apologized.

Complete Article HERE!

Ex-Albany bishop acknowledges covering up abuse allegations

Retired Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., is seen in this 2013 file photo.

The former bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany has acknowledged covering up allegations of sexual abuse against children by priests in part to avoid scandal and protect the reputation of the diocese.

Howard J. Hubbard made the admission during a deposition taken last year as part of a response to dozens of claims filed under New York’s Child Victims Act. A judge ordered the deposition released on Friday.

Hundreds of people have sued the Albany diocese over sexual abuse they say they endured as children, sometimes decades ago.

During the four-day deposition, Hubbard named several priests who had been accused of sexual abuse who were referred to treatment and later returned to ministry, without notification to the public. One, David Bentley, admitted to Hubbard that he had engaged in the behavior alleged.

Hubbard testified he didn’t report the allegations to law enforcement because he didn’t feel he was required by law to do so, and instead kept the allegations against Bentley, and others, secret out of concern for “scandal and the respect of the priesthood.” The diocese eventually removed Bentley from ministry.

The transcript “will be read with horror by the public,” Cynthia LaFave, an attorney representing some of the plaintiffs, said in an emailed statement Friday. “The public will see the culpability of the Diocese in perpetuating a culture of sex abuse by priests that was allowed to continue for decades.”

Hubbard ran the diocese in New York’s Capital District from 1977 to 2014 and has himself been accused of sexual abuse, which he has denied. He also testified that the diocese kept records documenting sexual abuse allegations in secret files in a locked room that only he and other top church officials could access.

In an emailed statement, a diocese spokesperson didn’t address Hubbard’s testimony directly but said the diocese’s priority is “the protection and assistance of victim/survivors and the discovery of the truth,” and that it “has and continues to resolve pending claims of victims/survivors in mediations with the assistance of the court.”

In arguing for the release of the deposition transcript, attorneys for some of the alleged victims had argued that the risk of pre-trial prejudice was no longer valid after Hubbard published an opinion piece in the Albany Times-Union last year in which he defended the diocese’s handling of abuse complaints.

Complete Article HERE!

Meet the Catholic Lesbians of New York City

The Church of St. Francis Xavier’s community group is a part of a collective endeavor to foster an unapologetically LGBTQ-affirming, woman-friendly Catholicism

Stephanie Samoy gives a tour of the conference room where Catholic Lesbians meets for meetings when the group gathers in-person. The Church of St. Francis Xavier, NY. Sunday, March 13, 2022.


When Stephanie Samoy first entered the Church of St. Francis Xavier in 2000, she sensed it was a rare community. The smell of chicken noodle soup — fed to impoverished believers during the parish’s weekly food drive — wafted into the church pews. Feeling what she attributed to love or the Holy Spirit, Samoy wept. Samoy moved up to New York City after she graduated college at the University of Arizona, craving distance from her parents after coming out as lesbian three years prior. Raised in the church, coming to terms with her sexuality was a “horrible time.”

Stephanie Samoy speaks with a parishioner before performing her duties as a lector during service. The Church of St. Francis Xavier, NY. Sunday, March 13, 2022.

But this congregation was unique. St. Xavier, which hosts a 300-member community group of Catholic lesbians, allowed Samoy to maintain both of her identities as Christian and as LGBTQ. St. Xavier’s walls are sprinkled with signs stating, in all capital letters “ALL ARE WELCOME.” But outside this Flatiron basilica, the leaders of the Catholic Church maintain that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” and instruct gay Catholics to abstain from sex, according to the Catechism. Yet, the Catechism, which outlines the main beliefs of the church, calls on all believers to treat LGBTQ community members with compassion and sensitivity.

The self-titled Catholic Lesbians, comprised of Catholic women ages 22 to 80, meet on the second Friday of every month to discuss spiritual topics, often challenging the use of male-centric language in the church and advocating for female priests. Members said the group represents a microcosm of hope, pushing a conversation about the leadership of the Catholic church accepting women from all walks of life. On March 19, Pope Francis instituted a new constitution allowing baptized women to head Vatican departments. Taking effect on June 5, the constitution expands clergywomen’s role and replaces Pope John Paul II’s 1988 rules, which excluded women from leadership roles.

The Catholic Lesbians community participates in social-justice-oriented protests in New York City and Washington, D.C., all while sponsoring ceremonial Xavier events such as the Stations of the Cross in March. Founded in 1995, the group “discovers that there is no dichotomy, no conflict, in being Catholic and lesbian,” according to its mission statement.

“This is a Roman Catholic Church and there’s an open space for queer women,” Samoy, who helped author the group’s mission statement, said. “It’s not courage; it’s dignity.”

Believers file into the inside of the Church of St. Francis Xavier for the 11:30 a.m. service on the second Sunday of Lent. Chelsea, NY. Sunday, March 13, 2022.

Another member of Catholic Lesbians, Cristina Traina, a Fordham professor of Christian theology with an emphasis on feminist ethics, joined the group to change the church from within. Traina’s coming-out journey started at 40, prompted by intense prayer and introspection.

“Often, we get in touch with ourselves during upheavals, when thoughts we normally just work around come bubbling up to the surface in an undeniable way,” Traina said.

Traina is also a board member for New Ways Ministry, an LGBTQ Catholic media organization. New Ways maintains a list of faith communities that welcome LGBTQ people, which includes St. Francis Xavier.

The double marginalization that gay women face in the church is extraordinarily toxic, Traina said. Nevertheless, Traina remains in the faith, animated by the belief that the church is at a point of inflection. But, she added, inflections take centuries in Catholicism.

“To occupy a woman’s body and be Catholic already puts you in a situation of tension,” Traina said. “To be lesbian adds to the tension.”

Michele Dillon, an Irish Catholic professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, agreed that Catholic officials must have the conversation on the full acceptance of LGBTQ believers soon. The Vatican must consider the authority of the clergy while acknowledging Catholics’ interpretive autonomy. This autonomy, legitimated by the Second Vatican Council since 1965, has led most Catholics to conclude that same-sex marriage is a non-issue. Over three-quarters of American Catholics said society should be accepting of homosexuality, according to November 2020 Pew Research Center data.

“The people the church serves is what ultimately guides the church,” Dillon said.

Dillon’s expertise is in Catholicism with a focus on sexual behavior, gender and the impact of Pope Francis on society. March 15 marked one year since the Vatican issued a statement that said priests could not bless same-sex unions. After this statement, the pastor at St. Francis Xavier, Rev. Kenneth Boller, told his congregation that the church has much to learn so it may understand all sexual orientations. In March 2013, Cardinal Dolan said the Catholic church needs to ‘do better’ to defend its view of heterosexual marriage.

“Pope Francis is constrained by other officials and by his own understanding of tradition,” Dillon said. “He has reservations about saying, ‘let’s solemnize as same-sex marriages,’ because to do so contradicts the church’s position that marriage is between heterosexuals. But I think, in his heart, he thinks gay Catholics are a blessing to their communities.”

Rev. Ricardo da Silva speaking while seated in the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Chelsea, NY. Friday, March 11, 2022.

Rev. Ricardo da Silva, an associate pastor at the Church of St. Francis Xavier, said he agrees with Francis and Dolan, who have both spoken out against gay marriage. However, da Silva said his emphasis contrasts with the two men. Da Silva simply wants more people, regardless of sexuality, to be compelled to the faith. LGBTQ people are far less likely than heterosexuals to be religious, according to Pew Research Center survey data.

Rev. Ricardo da Silva peering down a hallway at St. Francis Xavier in Manhattan, NY. Friday, March 11, 2022.

“I don’t think Cardinal Dolan would disagree with me in the respect that the church teaches that all are created in the image and likeness of God and that LGBTQ people should have a home in the church,” da Silva said.

The state of New York has one the largest Catholic populations per capita within the United States. It also contains one of the largest LGBTQ populations in the country, with 913,000 members of the LGBTQIA community in the city alone. It then follows, da Silva said, that New York City is a key site for the intersection of LGBTQIA identity and Catholicism. The Church of St. Francis Xavier’s reputation for being gay-friendly is clear to da Silva, who does not mind that Xavier “colors a little outside the lines” of traditional church thinking.

“Just look at Jesus, right?” da Silva said. “Look at who is important to Jesus: those on the margins.”

Complete Article HERE!