Quebec provincial flags are displayed outside a building across the street from the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec in Quebec City Oct. 5, 2017. CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

Two more bishops named in class action against Quebec Archdiocese

By  Francois Gloutnay, Catholic News Service
  • December 8, 2022

MONTREAL -- Two more bishops, including one still serving, have been named in a new list of offenders filed in the class action against the Quebec Archdiocese.

Bishop Jean-Pierre Blais of Baie-Comeau, and the late Bishop Clément Fecteau, who served as bishop of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, were named in an 11-page victims’ list recently made public by the Arsenault Dufresne Wee law firm. Both were ordained bishops in the Quebec archdiocese before being transferred.

Blais’ alleged offenses are described as touching and masturbation and are alleged to have occurred between 1973 and 1975 at the Charny rectory, when the victim was 12 years old, reported the Montreal-based Presence info.

Blais has formally denied any inappropriate conduct toward the victim. He said he would collaborate with the legal proceedings but would not give any interviews or provide comments.

“Having been made aware of the allegations concerning me in the class action against the Archdiocese of Quebec, and which would have occurred between 1973 and 1975 in Charny, I would like to formally deny having made any inappropriate gesture on the presumed victim,” he stated.

When allegations of abuse are made against a priest, he is automatically removed from ministry while an investigation is conducted. In the case of a bishop,  it is the responsibility of an archbishop to inform Vatican authorities as soon as the allegations are known. In this case, Archbishop Denis Grondin of Rimouski would be responsible for the process.

Grondin would not comment to Presence messages about his course of action.

In July 2021, the Baie-Comeau diocese adopted a protocol for dealing with allegations of clerical sex abuse of a minor. The 22-page document stipulates the procedures to implement based on Canon Law, and it states that “clergy” includ.

Blais’ statement does not mention if the diocesan protocol was followed nor if the Vatican was informed of the allegations. He did not specify if he asked Pope Francis to suspend his duties during the class action litigation or out of court settlement.

Christine Desbiens, Baie-Comeau diocesan spokeswoman, responded “no comment” to questions from Presence. However, in comments to the Journal de Québec, she expressed the possibility of the bishop’s duties being suspended.

Blais was ordained a priest in 1974. He ministered in parishes, a few years in schools and also headed the Office of Faith Education of Quebec for eight years. In January 1995, he was ordained as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Quebec and was installed as bishop of Baie-Comeau in 2009.

The alleged offenses against Fecteau included touching and exhibitionism and are alleged to have taken place in 1987 in a locker room at the Quebec seminary, as well as in the woods, when the victim was 13.

Fecteau was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Quebec in 1957, and he was appointed as auxiliary bishop in 1989. In May 1996, he became the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière. He resigned in 2008 and died in 2017.

Jean-François Morin, diocesan spokesman, said, “No one saw this coming, it’s a very big surprise.” He added that Fecteau was remembered by all his collaborators as someone who was very much loved and appreciated.

Staff in the Archdiocese of Quebec learned of the updated list Dec. 1 and said they would not comment on the allegations.

“The leaders and members of the Catholic Church of Quebec firmly condemn any conduct that violates human dignity. We reiterate our commitment to preventing actions that injure the moral, spiritual and physical integrity of our brothers and sisters,” said Valérie Roberge-Dion, archdiocesan director of communications.

The two bishops’ names were added to those of Cardinal Marc Ouellet and the late Auxiliary Bishop Jean-Paul Labrie, who were accused this summer. A preliminary investigation into allegations against Ouellet concluded there was not sufficient evidence to warrant opening formal proceedings against the cardinal for sexual assault, a Vatican spokesman said. 

The cardinal filed suit Dec. 13 against his accuser, according to Associated Press. Ouellet is seeking $100,000 in compensation for “injury to his reputation, honour and dignity.” 

Meanwhile, in Montreal, the lawyer appointed to make the Archdiocese of Montreal more transparent in the way it handles abuse allegations says her job is being undermined by people within the archdiocese, according to a Dec. 9 report from CBC.

Ombudsman Marie Christine Kirouack said a high-ranking clergy member was leaking information about abuse complaints and discouraging complainants from contacting her, CBC reports. The report goes on to identify Fr. Roger Dufresne, an episcopal vicar, as the priest who leaked the information. 

(Gloutnay writes for in Montreal.)

Last modified on December 14, 2022

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