Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver.

Victims irritated by bishops’ secrecy

  • March 14, 2020

MONTREAL -- The Canadian bishops’ standing committee for the Responsible Ministry and Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons met for the first time in January, but the fact that the identities of the majority of its members is kept secret irritates victims, who see a lack of transparency.

Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver, chairman of the standing committee, said it was clear “from our first meeting that they are eager to work and bring forward real change to prevent abuse from ever occurring, as well as to assume their critical role as advocates for the healing of victims-survivors.”

While not a decision-making body, the standing committee will assist and advise the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) on its national safeguards. Its role is to “bring forward research-based information and identify emerging issues and best practices. It will address matters related to healing and prevention, act as a sounding board and consultative forum, and recommend priorities and initiatives for consideration by the appropriate CCCB bodies,” said a CCCB statement.

Though the committee has 16 members, the names of only six of them were made public. Five of them were bishops — including Miller and the CCCB president, Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg — and the other was Msgr. Frank Leo, CCCB general secretary.

The names of the 10 other members of the standing committee will not be released “for privacy reasons,” said Lisa Gall, CCCB communications co-ordinator. The CCCB will only make public “their field of experience or professional expertise.”

The standing committee includes two victims and survivors, a member of a consecrated life institute, two child protection experts, a psychologist, a civil lawyer, a communications adviser, a canonist and a representative of Eastern Catholics.

Brenda Brunelle, an Ontario leader of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, was not invited to participate in the meetings of the committee, and she said March 4 she did not know the names of the victims who have agreed to be part of the committee. She was abused by a priest when she was 12 years old.

“It’s disappointing to have been working with Canadian prelates only for them to choose not to invite survivor advocates to this conference. It speaks to the fact that the Church cares more about looking like they are doing the right thing rather than actually doing the right thing,” she said. “Everything is done under the seal of silence. We are far from the promise to act with transparency on this issue.”

“No, I wasn’t invited to be a member of this committee even though I regularly asked to be consulted. And no, I don’t know anyone who has been invited,” said Carlo Tarini, director of communications for the Committee for Victims of Priests, who mostly operate in French-speaking Quebec. “So much for transparency by the bishops. It’s been years and they don’t change.

“Once again, the victims and their representatives are being ignored, it’s a disgrace.”

Lucien Landry, president of the Duplessis Orphans Committee, also confirmed he is not a member of the standing committee. “And I’m not too surprised I wasn’t invited. We’ve rattled their cage quite a lot these past few years.”

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