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The Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John’s, Nfld. The Archdiocese of St. John’s is facing “sacrifices” after being found liable for abuse settlements left by the Christian Brothers. Register file photo

St. John’s vows to heal from ‘dark chapter’

  • February 18, 2021

OTTAWA -- Archbishop Peter Hundt says “sacrifices” will have to be made, but the Archdiocese of St. John’s has to move forward with compassion and understanding after a “dark chapter” of abuse in the Newfoundland archdiocese’s history.

In a message delivered at Masses across the archdiocese Feb. 13-14, the archbishop explained to the faithful what must be done to address the abuses that occurred at the Mount Cashel Orphanage in the past now that the Supreme Court of Canada has let a lower court ruling stand that made the archdiocese “vicariously liable” for abuses that occurred at the notorious orphanage run by the Christian Brothers of Ireland.

“We must now move to address these claims to the best of our ability, and in justice to the victims,” said Hundt in the statement read during Masses.

The archdiocese is consulting with financial advisors on how best to settle victim claims. A July 2020 ruling by Newfoundland’s court of appeal had ordered the archdiocese to pay out about $2 million in damages to four plaintiffs in the case. The plaintiffs’ lawyer said there are dozens more  victims who could now seek compensation.

“The resolution of these claims will have significant implications for the parishes and parishioners of our archdiocese,” Hundt said in his address. “Therefore, we are presently working with financial and other advisors to discern how best to move forward in addressing them,” said Hundt.

“There will be changes and sacrifices required of all of us as we move through this process. I cannot promise that the road ahead will be an easy one, but certainly the practice and celebration of our Catholic faith will continue.

“I hope that this resolution process will bring with it healing for the victims, their loved ones and the entire community of faith, and closure to a dark chapter in the history of our archdiocese.”

Mount Cashel was run by the Christian Brothers of Ireland, which declared bankruptcy in 2012 while settling abuse lawsuits. The orphanage itself was demolished in 1992.

The situation in St. John’s comes as the fallout from what went on at Mount Cashel continues to be felt across the country decades after the orphanage’s closure and demolition. The Archdiocese of Vancouver has been named in a lawsuit filed in B.C. on Feb. 8 that claims the Christian Brothers moved known abusers from the Newfoundland orphanage to two schools in Vancouver where the lawsuit alleges some youth were also abused.

The lawsuit filed in British Columbia Supreme Court claims that from 1976 to 1983 six members facing abuse allegations from Mount Cashel were transferred to Vancouver College and St. Thomas More Collegiate, both run by the Christian Brothers.

Officials at both schools said they are reviewing the claims.

The Archdiocese of Vancouver in a statement said it “feels great sadness and regret for anyone who has suffered sexual abuse from a person in power.”

The archdiocese and Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese, which were both named in the proposed suit, do not own or operate the schools, the statement continued, adding “these two schools are both run by independent foundations. They have their own land and buildings, have their own curriculum and make all their own hiring decisions. As a result we can make no further comment on this case.”

(With files from The B.C. Catholic)

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