Nunavut court frees defrocked Oblate priest on bail

— Eric Dejaeger has been convicted of dozens of sexual offences in Canada, involving children, adults and animals

Former Nunavut priest Eric Dejaeger during his trial in Iqaluit.

By Kathleen Martens

A defrocked priest convicted of sexually abusing children in Nunavut will be flown to Kingston, Ont., to live in a federal half-way house after being released on bail.

Ontario lawyer Scott Cowan said Eric Dejaeger, 77, will be freed in Iqaluit on conditions imposed by justice of the peace Amanda Soper on Tuesday.

Cowan said Dejaeger is both a federal parolee and “Iqaluit detainee” – a situation that created an ideal situation for bail.

“The pitch made by me was, ‘Look, give him bail on the new charges and…harken to the fact that the life he’ll be going back to is one of constant supervision’,” Cowan said Wednesday.

“In this circumstance, his residential and supervisory status as a federal parolee meant that bail was a logical thing to do.”

An early photo of Eric Dejaeger when he was a Catholic priest in Nunavut.

Dejaeger will be living at the Henry Traill Community Correctional Centre in Kingston, a federal facility southwest of Toronto with 24-hour supervision, Cowan added.

“It’s basically part of a penitentiary; it’s on the grounds of (medium-security Collins Bay) penitentiary. So, the idea that he’s a free man would be a misstatement.”

The former priest with the Missionary Order of Mary Immaculate (OMI) is permitted to leave the facility for medical appointments and grocery shopping during the day without an escort, the lawyer said.

Dejaeger was serving a 19-year sentence for 32 sex crimes against Inuit children and adults in Igloolik, Nunavut when he was released on parole to the halfway house in June 2022, parole documents obtained by APTN News show.

He was freed from prison early under “statutory release” – a law enacted by Parliament that kicks in after an offender has served two-thirds of a “fixed-length” sentence – to the supervision of a parole officer.

Eric Dejaeger
Defrocked priest Eric Dejaeger has been released on bail to live in a halfway house in Kingston, Ont.

Dejaeger was living in the Henry Traill when he was arrested and charged with eight additional counts of child sexual abuse from his time as a Catholic missionary in Igloolik, Nunavut between 1978 and 1982.

Cowan said he was appointed by a court to represent Dejaeger, who was born in Belgium and became a Canadian citizen in 1977.

Dejaeger was first arrested in 2011 on immigration charges in Belgium and deported to Canada to face the sexual abuse charges laid in 1995.

He has been convicted of dozens of sexual offences in Canada, involving children, adults and animals in Nunavut and Alberta.

His victims in Alberta, where he was studying at the Newman Theological College in Edmonton in the 1970s, were a nine-year-old Indigenous boy from Grand Cache, Alta., and an eight-year-old boy and his six-year-old sister from Edmonton.

Dejaeger pleaded guilty to those crimes in 2015 and was sentenced to five years in prison, concurrent to his sentence for the Igloolik crimes.

He is no longer a priest but remains a member of the Oblates, confirmed Rev. Ken Thorson of OMI-Lacombe in Ottawa.

“While I respect the judicial process, I wish to apologize to anyone who has been harmed by Eric Dejaeger or by any Oblate,” Thorson said in an email to APTN.

“The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, OMI Lacombe Canada, did not pay for his bail or any of his legal costs. In fact I only learned of this (bail) news yesterday through the media.”

Thorson said it was common among religious communities like the Oblates to retain offensive members.

“This allows us to ensure appropriate monitoring and offer the support needed to reduce the possibility of recidivism,” Thorson said. “Putting men out on the street would transfer the financial and monitoring burden to society. We believe our approach is part of our congregational safeguarding commitment to the larger community.”

Complete Article HERE!

Spain approves plan to compensate victims of Catholic Church sex abuse.

— Church will be asked to pay

FILE – A woman prays at the San Ramon Nonato church after an Easter Holy Week procession was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, April 9, 2020. Spain has approved a plan aimed at making reparation and economic compensation for victims of sex abuses committed by people connected to the Catholic Church.

Spain on Tuesday approved a plan aimed at making reparation and economic compensation for victims of sex abuse committed by people connected to the Catholic Church.

It also announced the future celebration of a public act of recognition for those affected and their families.

The Minister of the Presidency and Justice, Félix Bolaños, said the plan was based on recommendations in a report by Spain’s Ombudsman last year. From that report, he said it was concluded that some 440,000 adults may have suffered sex abuse in Spain by people linked to the church and that roughly half of those cases were committed by clergy.

Bolaños said the compensation would be financed by the church.

But in a statement Tuesday, Spain’s Bishops Conference rejected the plan, saying it discriminated against victims outside of church circles.

No details of how much or when financial compensation would be paid were released. Neither was a date set for any public act of recognition.

Bolaños said the plan aimed to “settle a debt with those victims who for decades were forgotten by everyone and now our democracy aims to repair” that, and make it a central part of government policy.

After years of virtually ignoring the issue, Spain’s bishops apologized for the abuses committed by church members following the Ombudsman’s report but disputed the number of victims involving the church as exaggerated. That report accused the church of widespread negligence.

Bolaños said the government hoped to carry out the plan over the next four years in collaboration with the church.

The project will include free legal assistance for all victims of sexual abuse and it will reinforce the prevention supervision in schools.

Only a handful of countries have had government-initiated or parliamentary inquiries into clergy sex abuse, although some independent groups have carried out their own investigations.

Catholic Parishes Disproportionately Closed in Poor, Black and Latino Neighborhoods

The Rev. Athanasius Abanulo celebrates Mass at Holy Family Catholic Church in Lanett, Ala., on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. Originally from Nigeria, Abanulo is one of numerous international clergy helping ease a U.S. priest shortage by serving in Catholic dioceses across the country.

By Aleja Hertzler-McCain

While the number of U.S. Catholics is increasing, the total number of Catholic parishes nationwide declined 9% between 1970 and 2020, according to a new report by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

In 10 of the 11 dioceses studied, those closures are disproportionately happening in Black and Latino neighborhoods and neighborhoods with higher poverty and unemployment.

The total number of American Catholics increased by 46% in the half-century before 2020, though the study’s researchers provided the context that the overall population increased 65% in those same years, meaning Catholics are a smaller proportion of the population.

The total number of priests, meanwhile, declined by 40%. The shortage of priests has played a significant role in the decisions to close parishes. Bishops announcing parish closures or consolidation repeatedly cite fewer and aging priests and low Mass attendance in decisions that typically receive pushback from their flocks.

Religious orders, like the Jesuits, have also announced plans to pull out of parish ministry because of few priests, ending longtime relationships with local parishes.

FutureChurch, a Catholic nonprofit that advocates for access to the Eucharist and reforms to the church, including married priests, commissioned the 759-page CARA report.

Parish size has grown by 60% since 1970, according to the report.

The CARA report notes that sacraments, including baptisms, Catholic marriages and Catholic funerals, have all declined. A deacon can also perform these sacraments, but there are fewer deacons than priests in the U.S.

Between 1970 and 2020, baptisms declined 57%, Catholic marriages declined 78%, and Catholic funerals declined 14%.

The report studied 11 dioceses: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archdiocese of Chicago, Archdiocese of Detroit, Archdiocese of Miami, Archdiocese of New Orleans, Archdiocese of New York, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Archdiocese of St. Louis, Diocese of Bridgeport, Diocese of Cleveland and Diocese of Memphis.

The dioceses were selected to fit FutureChurch’s research needs and are not a representative sample. Several large dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Archdiocese of Atlanta, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and Archdiocese of Seattle are not among the dioceses studied.

But in the dioceses studied, the report showed a tendency to close or merge parishes in neighborhoods that were poorer or had higher percentages of Black people or Latinos.

While the average proportion of white residents was lower in neighborhoods where parishes closed and higher in neighborhoods where parishes were opened, “in all 11 dioceses, the average proportion of people below the poverty line, people unemployed, Blacks/African Americans, and Hispanics/Latinos was higher in those neighborhoods where parishes closed/were absorbed than in those neighborhoods were parishes opened/expanded,” the report concluded. (The sole exception was for Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods in the Archdiocese of Miami.)

Complete Article HERE!

Long Island diocese to end bankruptcy without sex abuse deal


A Catholic diocese in Long Island, New York has asked a judge to end its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, after failing to get support from about 530 sex abuse survivors on a proposed $200 million settlement of their claims against the diocese.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, which serves about 1.2 million Catholics in Nassau and Suffolk counties, said on Friday that its bankruptcy had “run its course” after abuse survivors “overwhelmingly” voted against the diocese’s offer.

“The Diocese sincerely hoped that its offer of $200 million—in addition to very substantial insurance assets—would be accepted by the creditors,” the diocese wrote in a motion to dismiss filed in U.S. bankruptcy court in Manhattan.

James Stang, an attorney representing abuse survivors in the bankruptcy, said that the diocese’s failure to reach a deal was “unprecedented.”

In other Catholic bankruptcies, abuse survivors were allowed to propose their own bankruptcy settlement instead of being offered a binary choice between the diocese’s plan or nothing, Stang said.

The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in New York in October 2020, citing the cost of lawsuits filed by childhood victims of clergy sexual abuse. New York’s Child Victims Act, which took effect in August 2020, temporarily enabled victims of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits over decades-old crimes.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn is scheduled to hear the diocese’s request to dismiss its case on May 9.

Glenn warned last year that he would dismiss the case if settlement talks continued to stagnate, but he said he was not eager to be the first judge to kick a Catholic diocese out of bankruptcy.

Talks broke down in part over the diocese’s plan to protect all of its parishes and local affiliates from lawsuits as part of the bankruptcy settlement. Abuse survivors said those local organizations had not contributed enough money to the settlement to warrant the legal protections they would have received.

Stang said on Monday that a bankruptcy settlement could still be reached if the diocese makes its proposal more attractive to abuse survivors. Survivors might be more inclined to vote for a deal with better economics or non-monetary concessions, like an apology and pledge to protect children from abuse in the future.

“We think the parishes can afford to pay much more and still maintain their religious mission,” Stang said.

The diocese said that it had spent over $106 million on attorneys and other bankruptcy professionals since filing for Chapter 11, including $33 million to the attorneys representing abuse survivors.

If the bankruptcy is dismissed, abuse survivors would be free to continue their lawsuits against the diocese in New York state courts.

Richard Tollner, who chaired the official committee representing abuse survivors in the bankruptcy, said that the dismissal would send a strong message to other debtors who are “using bankruptcy to avoid accountability before state court juries.”

“If your plan does not have the support of the survivors’ creditors’ committee, your reorganization plan will fail,” Tollner said in a statement.

In re The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 20-12345.

For Rockville Centre: Corinne Ball and Todd Geremia of Jones Day

For the creditors committee: James Stang of Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones

Complete Article HERE!

Survivors of clergy sex abuse tell their stories before bankruptcy court and Archbishop William Lori, Baltimore officials

Victim-survivor Teresa Lancaster, center, leaves the United States District Court for the District of Maryland in Baltimore City following her April 8, 2024, testimony in the Archdiocese of Baltimore bankruptcy case.

By Christopher Gunty

Six victim-survivors of sexual abuse by clergy in the Archdiocese of Baltimore gave statements in court April 8 about the long-term impact of the abuse on their lives as part of the federal bankruptcy reorganization.

The testimonies were off the record and not transcribed. Judge Michelle M. Harner, who is overseeing the Chapter 11 case, noted that the statements are not evidentiary in the case.

Their primary purpose, she said, was to “increase engagement and understanding” and to provide a forum for those affected by the pre-bankruptcy conduct of the archdiocese and its representatives.

“Today is a listening session and an opportunity for individuals to be heard,” Harner said.

Archbishop William E. Lori and Auxiliary Bishop Adam J. Parker attended the hearing, sitting in the front of the courtroom. They both hugged the first survivor who spoke.

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori speaks to media outside the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Baltimore following the April 8, 2024, testimony by victim-survivors in the archdiocesan bankruptcy case.

Harner thanked each person who made a statement — three women and three men — for their participation in the process. About 50 people attended the hearing at the federal courthouse in Baltimore.

Some of those who spoke to the court specifically addressed the archbishop. In one poignant moment, one of the victim-survivors also turned to address other victim-survivors in court, reminding them that as adults, they can take control of their healing.

Some common themes emerged in the victim-survivors’ statements — further abuse, troubled marriages and divorces, issues of trusting anyone, and other problems that have plagued their lives. Some noted that the chance to bring their experience to the court would be an important part of their healing.

In one touching moment, during one victim-survivor’s statement, the woman who was first to speak reached over the handrail to hold the hand of her husband, sitting just behind her.
The session, scheduled for two hours, ended after just an hour. Another such session is scheduled for May 20, which Archbishop Lori also will attend.

Paul Jan Zdunek, who chairs the Unsecured Creditors Committee, a group of seven people who represent all the victim-survivors in the case, said after the session that he was surprised at how quickly the session went, “despite it didn’t feel that way. I thought everyone was really great with their words and their preparation and the courage that it took to do that in front of everybody.”

He said he appreciated that the judge supported the process and allowed each participant to have the time they needed to tell their story.

“We even heard from them that this was a healing moment and a moment they’ve been waiting for in some cases 50 years, which is extraordinary. I think what struck me today was beyond the moments that happened when they were children, how much it has affected them since, you know, 50 years ago, 60 years of a life gone,” Zdunek told the Catholic Review, Baltimore’s archdiocesan news outlet.

He said he was not surprised to hear that many of those who spoke have issues trusting others, especially because the abuse happened in a church or school by someone who was supposed to minister to them. “Here it is the one place that you’re supposed to be safe and have been told, you know, as a Catholic raised myself, that this is the truth, the light, the way, the place for salvation — and to have that be the place that trust leaves you is devastating,” Zdunek said.

In advance of the hearing, he said the members of the survivors committee — five of whom attended the hearing — purposely wanted to allow others not on the committee to have the first opportunity to speak in court. He said that in this process, the committee already has the ear of the archbishop. “We thought it was important for others to really have the chance to speak.”

He expects the May 20 hearing to be similar. “He wanted to see how this went first, but I’d imagine it’s not going to be too much different than this.”

The deadline to file a claim in the case is May 31.

Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Adam J. Parker and Archbishop William E. Lori leave the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Baltimore April 8, 2024, following testimony by victim-survivors in the archdiocese bankruptcy case.

Teresa F. Lancaster, one of those who spoke in court, addressed reporters after the hearing and noted that she had testified in support of the Child Victims Act passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2023, which removed the statute of limitations for civil suits for child sexual abuse.

She acknowledged that abuse has happened not just in the church, but also in other schools and organizations.

Asked whether her day in court was a day that she has long been waiting for, Lancaster, who eventually became an attorney so she could help other victims, said, “We wanted our day in court and we were deprived of it. So, I felt somewhat, and I want all the survivors to feel that, hey, your voice has been heard, you’re just as important, and people know what happened now.”

Outside the courthouse after the hearing, Archbishop Lori said he came as a pastor and priest and was moved by the testimony that he heard.

“My meetings with victim-survivors over the years have taught me the importance of their being able to tell their story, the importance of being heard and listened to, and being believed, and so I came to listen,” he said, adding that he “hopes that by doing this I can contribute in some small way to the healing of the of these individuals and what they’ve been through.”

He said that after the passage of the Child Victims Act, the archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 reorganization “so that we could, in fact, help as many victim survivors as equitably as we can while at the same time carrying forward the mission of the church, of our parishes, our charities and our schools.”

Asked if he has said he is sorry for the pain experienced by those abused, the archbishop said, “I’ve said it many times. and will say it to the end of my life. But I recognize that no apology of mine undoes what was done. Listening, believing, does a lot more.

“I’ve listened and met with victim survivors for a long, long time and every time I listen, it shakes me — every time.”

In a statement released later in the day, Archbishop Lori said, “I am deeply grateful to the victim-survivors for their courage today and I am moved by their heart-rending experience.

“To the victim-survivors who long to hear that someone is sorry for the trauma they endured and for its life-altering consequences: I am profoundly sorry. I offer my sincerest apology on behalf of the archdiocese for the terrible harm caused to them by representatives of the church,” he said. “What happened to them never should have occurred. No child should ever, ever suffer such harm.”

He added his thanks to those of Harner, saying, “I ask that the focus today be on the courage and bravery of the women and men who offered their statements and those they represent.

“Their stories and those of the victim-survivors I’ve met with privately for decades, emboldens our response and determination to ensure no child in our care is ever again harmed. I am grateful to the Survivors Committee for initiating the request to offer victim-survivors this opportunity today, which I sincerely pray will further assist them in their journey toward healing.”

The hearing comes a year and three days after the Maryland Office of the Attorney General released an extensive report on clergy sexual abuse of minors in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat, signed the Child Victims Act into law April 11, 2023. It went into effect Oct. 1, 2023.

Complete Article HERE!