Pope Francis greets Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg during a meeting with representatives of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops at the Vatican last December. Gagnon is the new president of the CCCB. CNS photo/Vatican Media

Canadian bishops vow to keep up work on abuse

  • October 4, 2019

CORNWALL, ONT. -- As a new team of leaders takes the helm of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB),  it is vowing to continue the work in combatting sexual abuse.

Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon is assuming the role of president for the next two years following the CCCB annual plenary assembly that was held in Cornwall Sept. 23-27. St-Jérôme Bishop Raymond Poisson is now the CCCB’s vice-president.

Gagnon, who is from Lethbridge, Alta., joined the priesthood in 1983 and has served as Bishop of Victoria before he became Archbishop of Winnipeg in October 2013. He has also served on the CCCB Permanent Council as the regional representative of the Assembly of Western Catholic Bishops from 2007 to 2008 and was CCCB vice-president for the past two years under outgoing CCCB president Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Que.

Bishop William McGrattan, who will serve a second term on the CCCB’s executive committee as co-treasurer, said clerical sex abuse was a key part  of plenary discussions. “We continued to have numerous discussions on the protection of minors and received numerous reports on how these effort are being implemented across the country,” said McGrattan, adding a standing committee is expected to provide oversight of the Church’s efforts.

“We were very sensitive to the number of survivors and the victims of sexual abuse, this was very much part of our discussions,” he said. “We realize the pain and suffering, but once again we are committed to making sure our dioceses are safe. 

“It is a very sensitive subject, but one that the plenary will continue to discuss year after year,” McGrattan said.

The changes at the CCCB follow the annual bishops’ meeting which again grappled with the fallout from past sexual abuse scandals in the Church and calls by some abuse victims in Cornwall for the Church to be more transparent and to release more details about past abuse within the Church.

From the very start of the annual conference the issue had been front and centre, with Gendron addressing the issue head-on in his annual report to the Plenary at the start of the meeting on Sept. 23.

“Perhaps nothing has hurt our credibility as teachers and witnesses of the Gospel more than sexual abuse committed by clergy, religious and laity, and its devastating effects on victims, their families and ecclesial communities, which we continue to feel deeply,” Gendron said.

After asking how “we can repair the enormous damage,” Gendron said, “The CCCB and individual bishops in their respective dioceses have taken up this challenge and initiative with seriousness of purpose.” 

The CCCB’s new executive committee also includes co-treasurer Bishop Pierre Goudreault of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière.

According to the CCCB, a delegation of bishops accepted an invitation to attend a screening of a documentary film on sexual abuse that was being shown in Cornwall during the plenary

“In doing so, the bishops expressed their intention to acknowledge the victims who would be gathered for this event, their suffering and their desire for healing and transformation,” said a statement from the CCCB. “The CCCB remains committed to seeking new ways to build bridges with victims-survivors.” 

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