© — Telegram file photo
The co-chair of a committee of representative victims of the Irish Christian Brothers is calling on the Archdiocese of St. John’s to take the Christian Brothers settlement as a sign and accept a role in the sex abuse scandal.
On Thursday, a settlement was reached with the Catholic lay order, the Christian Brothers, that affects 160 victims of sexual abuse in
St. John’s — mostly former residents of the Mount Cashel orphanage in St. John’s. Some 10 per cent of the victims were other school children.
The victims include people who were at the Mount Cashel orphanage in the 1940s right up to when it closed in the late ’80s. The legal battle for those victims stretches back to the late 1990s.
The settlement does not prevent the abuse victims from taking action against the archdiocese.
“So they have a part to play,” said the man who can’t be named. “They are the overseers. We will see how ‘Christian’ they are and how quickly they want to bring this to a satisfactory conclusion. Those boys, they have been hurt. They need to be compensated for pain and suffering. Let’s get it done. Lot of churches are not about healing and faith, they are about power and money.”
Speaking for the Catholic Archdiocese of St. John’s Friday, vicar general Rev. Frank Puddister said the archdiocese has been working as quickly as it can to address all claims of abuse against it.
In relation to the Christian Brothers’ settlement, he said the archdiocese welcomes the news as a “big step forward.”
“What we can do is look and see, do we have liability?” he said.
“Examine this and say ‘What response do we give to the claims?’ … Are we liable or not liable? We will receive the best advice we can and hope to bring it to a conclusion.”
He said the archdiocese did not have direct supervision of the Christian Brothers.
The Christian Brothers settlement includes a $16.5-million cash payment from the Christian Brothers and one of its insurers and affects 400 men and women in the U.S. and Canada who say they were molested as children by members of the Christian Brothers.
The committee approved terms and conditions of an agreed-to reorganization plan in the
Chapter 11 cases of The Christian Brothers Institute and The Christian Brothers of Ireland, Inc.
It must be voted on by all the claimants: requiring two-thirds acceptance.
Details will then be worked of who gets what compensation.
The committee co-chair was at Mount Cashel in the 1940s, along with four brothers, also victims.
Since the Chapter 11, he and the other six members of the committee — two of which were formerly orphanage residents, participated in weekly teleconferences.
It was like looking in the mirror when he met the others on three occasions and when he heard other victims’ stories from across the U.S.
“It kind of hit you. You were not a little island out there in the middle of the Atlantic alone,” he said.
“I met the real, live victims and it’s not only me anymore. … That’s a big thing. It kind of knocks you backwards. It was so big and so common.
“You read it in the paper — Ireland, Australia — those are faraway places you hear about. There is no truth in hearing things. There’s truth when you get somebody face-to-face and can see the emotion, feel their pain. They can feel your pain.”
He said there’s no amount of money that can remove the taint of the horrific abuse, but there are some never compensated victims that can use the funds to help them get on with their lives.
He thanked the legal team, which included Geoff Budden of Budden, Morris law offices in Mount Pearl.
Another man, not an orphanage survivor, said he was fondled in Holy Cross at the age of 11 or 12 on different occasions in the 1960s and doesn’t want school victims to be overlooked. He’d always suspected his older brother was also abused and about a year ago, the conversation came up.
“My exact words were ‘I (expletive) knew he molested you,” said the man who doesn’t want his name used either.
The man is indifferent to Thursday’s settlement.
“Its not about the money. It’s the accountability, bringing those bastards to justice and accountability,” he said.
“Nobody can ever imagine or realize what you go through.”
The settlement cash could potentially be increased by several million because there is an outstanding lawsuit involving a high school in the Bronx area of New York, plus dealings with other insurers that haven’t been settled, as well as the future sale of three properties.
Billy Earle, who was at the orphange in the 1970s and testified at the Hughes Inquiry, received compensation previously. It is not clear if or how he or other victims already dealt with will be affected by the settlement announced Thursday. But he was astounded at the extent of holdings.
“It goes to show the essence of the Catholic organization, how they take stuff and hide it,” Earle said Friday.
He said the order should have settled matters when the abuse came to light and as victims came forward.
“To drag it on another 20 years, this late is ludicrous,” he said.
In a news release Friday, lawyer Bob Buckingham also said the claims could have been settled many years ago.
“The resistance to settle by the Christian Brothers, the Roman Catholic Church and responsible governments delayed these survivors realizing justice and obtaining compensation. No amount of money can compensate these men for the abuse they suffered and the long process they have had to endure to achieve this settlement,” he said.
The Justice department would not comment on the settlement due to outstanding claims against the province.