Evangelism Exposed

“Jesus wept.” Joh 11:35

Abuse victims say Diocese is delaying settlements


“I feel like I’m being raped again.”

Frustrated victims of pedophile priest Charles Sylvestre say the London diocese is prolonging their pain by dragging its feet over compensation and forcing them to repeatedly relive the horrors of their youth.

“I feel like I’m being raped again,” said Lou Ann Soontiens, who was assaulted from about age 11 to 17, when she had a forced abortion.

“Bishop (Ronald) Fabbro made comments of a speedy resolution and compassion. Where’s the compassion? We want to move on with our lives and we’ve got this hanging over us.”

Sylvestre pleaded guilty Aug. 4, 2006, to sexually assaulting 47 girls over nearly 40 years in Chatham, Pain Court, Sarnia, London and Windsor. Police have said many more victims have since come forward. It was also discovered that church officials knew of the abuse and did nothing.

Sylvestre died Jan. 22, 2007, at Kingston Penitentiary, after serving less than four months of his three-year sentence.

More than two years after the guilty pleas, dozens of victims represented by different law firms are still waiting for the swift and compassionate conclusion they say was promised. A group of them is planning a news conference to express their anger.

“Bishop Fabbro in his homily apologized and said we were going to be dealt with expediently and gently,” said Karen Schram, whose abuse began in 1971 at age 10. “That has not happened. I believe the majority of the Catholic congregation believes we’ve reached a resolution. We haven’t. Every time we turn around somebody is preventing us from reaching a resolution.”

Soontiens said the diocese is requiring her and others to undergo more psychological evaluations, something the women involved in the criminal proceedings have been through many times before.

“The courtroom girls have already went through that with the police, the Crown attorney, and now I’m going through it three or four different times over again,” said Soontiens, whose lawsuit began four years ago. “Each time I go, they say that’s the same we’ve heard from the beginning. Why makes us all go through it, live that over and over again?

Mark Adkinson, director of communications for the London diocese, said he couldn’t comment on that.

“I’m not intimately involved in the process,” he said. “I know that the diocesan co-ordinator for this is aware this is something that is painful for people to have to go through again. I know he is working really hard on addressing those concerns. To be honest, I haven’t heard of that complaint in a long time.”

Adding to the long delay, the victims say, is that the lawyer heading up the diocese’s defence has taken a job as a judge.

“Now they’re putting a new person on that doesn’t know what’s going on, and has to take time to read all our files,” said Soontiens. “This is going to drag on and on and on.”

Adkinson said the diocese was also disappointed by its lawyer’s departure.

“We’re just as disappointed as anybody else because we were hoping to move forward and meet the needs of any victims,” he said.

Senior partner Paul Ledroit of Ledroit Beckett law firm in London, representing 34 victims, said he had four mediations scheduled for August. They all got cancelled.

“It’s frustrating to these women because they had been promised by the diocese that things would be dealt with expeditiously, and you’re now looking at years since this process started,” he said.

The survivors said they’re dealing with the added stress from public perception that the cases have been settled, the victims got millions and churches are closing to pay for it.

“They make it sound like Bishop Fabbro has to sell his house because he needs the money for sexual abuse victims,” said Soontiens. “It’s not true.”

The diocese put Fabbro’s house on the market in December 2007, asking $850,000. At the time, the diocese said it was to pay for the lawsuits.

Adkinson said he doesn’t remember that being given as a reason for putting the house up.

“There were a number of factors, I hadn’t heard of that one before,” he said, adding the house was old and needed extensive repairs.

Despite that, he said proceeds from the house — which sold last month for $625,000 — have been earmarked to pay for the lawsuits.

But he also said the diocese has insurance.

“The diocese has had various insurance companies over the years that will pay for all, most or part of it,” said Adkinson.

Published: Friday, August 22, 2008

August 23, 2008 - Posted by | Bankrupt Churches, Church Scandals, Closing Churches, Rape, Sex Abuse, UK

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