Saturday, April 24, 2010

More legal woes for Catholic church

More legal woes for Catholic church
Class action lawsuit would allege systematic abuse of boys in 1980s
By MONIQUE MUISE, The GazetteApril 24, 2010
MONTREAL – The Roman Catholic Church in Quebec may soon be facing another major lawsuit over alleged sexual abuse at the hands of its priests.

A bid to launch a class action suit against the church was filed Thursday at the Montreal courthouse. The statement of claim alleges that up to five priests were involved in the systematic abuse of young boys in the 1980s at the now-shuttered Séminaire St. Alphonse, in Ste. Anne de Beaupré, just outside Quebec City.

Among other allegations, the document states that the priests “consulted with one another and conspired in an effort to determine which students they would abuse, and divided (the victims) up amongst themselves.”

The main plaintiff, Frank Tremblay, 40, claims he was repeatedly fondled in a priest’s bed and otherwise abused “physically, sexually, mentally and emotionally” several times a week over a four-month period between October 1982 and February 1983.

The alleged abuser in that instance was Father Raymond-Marie Lavoie, who was arrested in December and charged with nine counts of sexual assault on four boys who attended the private Catholic school in the 1980s.

Lavoie, 70, is the only individual priest named as a defendant in the document, alongside the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. He is out on bail and has been suspended by the church pending the outcome of his case.

Another plaintiff, not named in the document, alleges that he was sexually assaulted on several occasions by three different priests at the school.

“The seminary permitted, or otherwise failed to prevent, the priests, from committing ... these abuses,” the document says.

“The seminary did not react to multiple warning signs concerning these priests.”

If the lawsuit is approved by a Quebec Superior Court justice, Tremblay will ask for up to $750,000 in damages. Each additional plaintiff would be seeking a minimum of $100,000 in compensation.

The action comes less than two weeks after victims' rights advocate France Bédard promised a fresh wave of legal actions against the church in Quebec.

“More revelations will be made because many victims now have the strength to come forward,” said Bédard, 62, who was impregnated by a Catholic priest in the 1960s and now runs the Association des victimes de prêtres.

“Colleges and boarding schools will soon be exposed because people are finding the courage to talk.”

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