A statue of Jesuit martyr St. Jean de Brebeuf stands in front of the church at the Martyrs' Shrine pilgrimage site in Midland, ON. The Canadian Jesuits run the shrine. Michael Swan

Updated: Jesuits of Canada name abusers among its ranks

  • March 14, 2023

Canada’s Jesuit Fathers have published the names of 27 of their own men who, over a span of 70 years, have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children and young people under 18. 

Most of the men have passed away though three are still living — quite elderly and barred from public ministry.

The Jesuits made the decision to audit their files and published the names of credibly accused priests and brothers in December of 2019. Completion of the audit was delayed by COVID as auditors went through 120 banker boxes full of files and the vast archives of the Jesuits in Montreal. 

In the end, almost all the instances of child sexual abuse the auditors discovered were “historical,” meaning that the accused are now dead.

“The last incidence that we know of was back in the ’80s,” Canadian provincial superior of the Jesuits Fr. Erik Oland told The Catholic Register in an exclusive interview.

The men placed on restricted ministry will never again be seen in a parish or school. All of their activities will be “in-house,” said Oland. In rare cases, and with full disclosure to the religious community involved, they might be assigned to say Mass for religious sisters.

The Canadian Jesuits are the latest Catholic entity to go public with the names of credibly accused abusers. The Archdiocese of Montreal, Archdiocese of Vancouver, the Diocese of Saskatoon, several American dioceses, Jesuit provinces throughout the United States and the bishops conferences of France and Portugal have all undergone similar exercises in transparency as the Church confronts its legacy of abuse.

Oland described the decision to publish the names as “having the courage to pluck away this veil of secrecy that the Church has allowed itself to live under for centuries.”

The Jesuit provincial superior believes the exercise in transparency will eventually free the order to engage in their ministries with the unlimited ardour and energy of their vocation.

“The Church and our order are doing a lot of good work. We need to continue to do that work and foster that as much as we can, while at the same time dealing with the reality of this abuse crisis and how it has touched the Jesuits,” he said.

Oland’s letter to Canadians explaining the release can be found here

None of the Jesuits on the public list have been named based on hearsay evidence, a spokesperson for the Jesuits told The Catholic Register in an email.

“The individuals on the list were found to have committed inappropriate acts based on evidence such as self-admission, legal proceedings and sworn testimony, as well as corroboration by other Catholic priests or Jesuits,” said Jesuit communications director José Sanchez. “Those accused based on ‘credible hearsay’ alone were not included on the list. In cases where there was first-party evidence but questions abut the accuracy of the identification, the file remains open but the accused is not added to the list.” 

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has not discussed the kind of independent and open investigation recently undertaken by conferences of bishops elsewhere, CCCB general secretary Fr. Jean Vézina told The Catholic Register in an email.

“CCCB members have not discussed the independent commission set up in France or similar initiatives in Portugal or the U.S., so I am unable to provide comment on their behalf at this time,” Vezina wrote.

Oland made the decision to proceed with the audit and publication of names in the context of the avalanche of abuse revelations that came with the August, 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury report on six Pennsylvania dioceses. That investigation found at least 1,000 child victims of more than 300 predator priests over a period of 70 years. On Aug. 20, 2018, Pope Francis responded to mounting outrage with a “Letter to the People of God” expressing his personal sorrow and shame and placing the blame squarely on a clerical culture of secrecy.

“Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism,” Pope Francis wrote.

The decision to share the names publicly was difficult, Oland said. As Jesuit provincial superiors in the U.S. were launching audits, the Canadian Jesuit superior was in meetings with them, weighing possible outcomes.

“Given that Canada is not the U.S., initially I decided I need more time to reflect and discern about the pros and cons of publishing,” he said.

Since posting the list to its website on March 12, the Canadian order has had a wide range of reaction.

“As you can imagine, there are many people who are not happy,” Oland said. “We’re getting lots of support for having moved forward with the publication, but we’re getting a lot of comments from people who are quite upset.”

The independent audit was led by Brian King of King International Advisory Group beginning in early 2020. The full audit contains a much more complete accounting of boundary violations and misdeeds involving both minors and adults.

“The whole audit is primarily a resource for the major superior,” Oland said.

Getting to the bottom of every case has not been easy.

“Just like in the wider world, it seems that sometimes the most guilty are also the best actors,” Oland said.

The full list of the accused is below.

English Province - Single allegation

  • Andrew Eordogh
  • Wilfred Harris
  • John Lepine
  • Michael Murray
  • John Pungente
  • John toth
  • Francis Whelan

English Province - Multiple allegations

  • Joseph Barker
  • Lawrence Brenna
  • Frederick Costello
  • David Eley
  • George Epoch
  • Norman Hinton
  • Gerry Horan
  • Robert MacDougall
  • James Mara
  • John Neville O’Neill
  • William Savoie
  • George Topp
  • Lorne Trainor
  • William Westaway

French Province - Single allegation

  • Louis-Philippe Bellavance
  • Armand Chaumont
  • Maurice Cote
  • Fernand Desrochers

French Provinc - Multiple allegations

  • Henri Lalonde
  • Marcel Menard
Last modified on March 15, 2023

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.