Yarmouth must sacrifice to pay for past sins

  • February 16, 2011
As a new round of negotiations with sex abuse victims continues, following a $1.5-million settlement shared among six victims, Halifax Archbishop Anthony Mancini has sent Catholics of Yarmouth a letter which includes a blistering assessment of priestly crimes and a bleak warning about future payouts.

“The behaviour of these priests and their failures are criminal, immoral and shameful. There is no excuse for it and there is not much that can be done to change what has happened,” Mancini wrote Jan. 24.

As archbishop of Halifax, Mancini is temporarily responsible for the smaller neighbouring diocese of Yarmouth. Yarmouth has not had a bishop since Bishop James Wingle was appointed to St. Catharines, Ont., in 2001. Wingle has since resigned his position in St. Catharines.

The diocese and the six victims — four men and two women —came to the settlement after four days of mediation in January.

They had been abused in the 1950s and ‘60s by two priests of the diocese, Frs. Adolphe LeBlanc and Eddie Thériault, both now deceased.

Mancini warns Yarmouth Catholics that future legal settlements will require sacrifices.

“No one feels good about having to pay out settlements — yet that is the cost for the sins of our past,” he wrote.

Mancini’s personal expression of anger, shame and confusion over the arrest of former Antigonish Bishop Raymond Lahey on child pornography charges in the fall of 2009 set the tone for the archbishop’s very forthright style in speaking about sex abuse scandals.

“I am well aware that everyone is in shock,” said Mancini in October 2009. “I am concerned with all who are trying to find any meaning in this devastation. I do not have the solution to this problem or the capacity to take away the pain or the means to erase this tragedy.”

Mancini’s honesty and openness on the topic is not a strategy, it’s just who he is, said archdiocese of Halifax communications officer Marilyn Sweet.

“He is very clear that his responsibility right now is to communicate with the people of the Church,” she said.

“When he communicates, when he preaches or writes a letter, he writes honestly or speaks honestly from his heart. Because that’s how he lives.”

For now, Mancini will remain silent. Any further statement from the archbishop could complicate current negotiations with victims, to say nothing of any future negotiations that may arise, Sweet said.

“It’s not helpful for the archbishop to be making statements to the media in the midst of all this, because it just makes it too complicated for everybody,” she said.

Mancini’s letter to Yarmouth makes it clear that his aim in negotiations is reparation for victims, and not the preservation of the diocese.

“What we can do and must do is try to right the wrongs and make financial settlements as best we can with those who have suffered the effects of sexual abuse,” he wrote.

As for the future of Yarmouth,  “As a Church, we will be stretched to the limits of our capacity to pay out settlements. We hope to survive, poorer yes, but alive nevertheless.”

In the wake of all this, a former Yarmouth priest is facing charges of indecent assault of three boys between the ages of seven and 11.

Eighty-one-year-old Albert LeBlanc is facing 40 charges under the criminal code as it existed between 1970 and 1975, when the attacks are alleged to have taken place.

LeBlanc was a priest in Yarmouth diocese between 1955 and 1973, when he resigned from the priesthood. After leaving the priesthood LeBlanc worked as a probation officer.

Now living in Bouctouche, N.B., LeBlanc is to appear in court in Yarmouth March 15.

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