Friday, January 21, 2011

Abuse victims reach deal with Catholic Church
Six share $1.5m from Diocese of Yarmouth
By BRIAN MEDEL Yarmouth Bureau
Fri, Jan 21 - 4:54 AM
Six people sexually abused by two priests in southwestern Nova Scotia many years ago have reached settlements with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Yarmouth.

The six will share in about $1.5 million, an amount that was arrived at this week after four days of mediation, their lawyer, Paul Ledroit, said Thursday.

The priests, Adolphe LeBlanc and Edward Theriault, are dead.

Ledroit, whose London, Ont., law firm now has an office in suburban Halifax, mediated eight cases, four involving each priest. Two of the eight cases have not been resolved yet, he said.

More cases involving the two priests and including about 16 victims are in the works, Ledroit said.

A statement from the Diocese of Yarmouth on Thursday said the diocese is facing more than 20 cases of sexual abuse. Because some cases have not been resolved through mediation, the diocese has no comment at this time, the statement said.

Ledroit was more than willing to comment.

"Victims of childhood sexual abuse . . . all suffer from guilt and shame," he said.

"They blame themselves for what happened. Because of that guilt and shame, many of them still cannot come forward.

"We issue a lot of claims in the name of a John Doe because they don’t want their names on the court documents."

Adolphe LeBlanc served as a priest in Wedgeport in the 1950s and ’60s.

"LeBlanc was a very bad man," Ledroit said.

"It’s hard for you to imagine the power that the priest had when dealing with unsophisticated individuals."

He said LeBlanc once shouted at parishioners because they were leaving the church before mass had ended.

"He said, ‘You people who are thinking of leaving, if you leave at this point, your legs will be broken as you walk down the stairs,’ " the lawyer said.

The people came back, sat down and never left early again.

LeBlanc assaulted many boys, Ledroit said.

"He would have abused, in my opinion, hundreds of boys," the lawyer said. "He caused a path of destruction in the lives of many men — many men who turned to alcohol, because it was the only thing they had to turn to, became alcoholics and died alcoholics."

One of the six men who reached a settlement was Raymond Boudreau, who was among LeBlanc’s victims.

"It happened for four years to me — between the ages of 11 to 15," Boudreau, now 67, said Thursday from his Wedgeport home.

"I did what I had promised myself to do when I was in my late teens, probably.

"I had made myself a promise that before I die, I was going to expose this priest for whatever he was."

Some in the community thought the priest was a decent man.

"But there was two sides to him," Boudreau said. "I will never forget and forgive.

"I blame more, the whole system. . . . They kept hiding him," he said, referring to the Catholic Church.

Boudreau, a retired fisherman, married his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth, and had three daughters and four grandchildren.

"I have had a wonderful wife," he said. "Me and my wife, we’ve been together since we were 16 years old. We were high school sweethearts, and we’re still going on strong."

The other priest, Theriault, abused women and young girls.

Two of his victims, sisters Jeanne Doucette, 49, and Margaret Deveau, 56, launched civil suits in 2010 and went public with accounts of sexual assaults in St. Alphonse, Digby County.

They are among the six to reach settlements this week.

In 1993, Theriault pleaded guilty to numerous sexual assaults on Deveau, beginning in 1962 when she was eight and ending in 1969. He was fined $10 — a victim fine surcharge — placed on probation for two years and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service.

He soon returned to work in the Catholic Church.

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