Former bishop out of his element when it came to handling allegations, says priest who had inside info

Cornwall Standard Freeholder

29 July 2008

Posted By Trevor Pritchard

Former bishop Eugene LaRocque was “out of his depths” when sex abuse allegations against Rev. Gilles Deslauriers first surfaced in early 1986, the Cornwall Public Inquiry heard Monday.

Bernard Ménard was a priest with L’Arche – a faith community for disabled people – near Glen Roy from 1979 until 1986, and a family friend of Benoit Brisson, one of Deslauriers’ victims.

Deslauriers pleaded guilty in November 1986 to four counts of gross indecency involving young men, including Brisson.

Testifying largely in French, the 74-year-old Ménard told the inquiry that in January of that year, he received a call from Hubert and Lise Brisson, Benoit’s parents.

They wanted to talk about something “painful,” said Ménard, and asked him to come over to their home. Once there, Hubert and Lise revealed Deslauriers had sexually abused their son.

“I was extremely sad,” said Ménard. “Particularly because they were people I knew very well, people who had good reputations, very credible.”

As a member of L’Arche, Ménard was outside of the Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese.

But after meeting with diocesan officials about the Brisson family’s complaints, he was asked to help investigate allegations that Deslauriers was sexually abusing a number of young men – not only Benoit Brisson – under the guise of “therapy.”

Ménard recalled meeting with both LaRocque and Deslauriers on multiple occasions during his investigation.

During one conversation, Deslauriers divulged there were 14 individuals he’d had sexual encounters with, Ménard said. As word of the abuse spread throughout the diocese, church officials came to believe the number was closer to 40, he added.

While LaRocque stripped Deslauriers of his pastoral duties in Cornwall, in March 1986 Deslauriers was discovered celebrating mass on a part-time basis for the Diocese of Gatineau-Hull.

Ménard said he drove there to tell Bishop Adolphe Proulx about the seriousness of the allegations, and to confront Deslauriers directly.

“I told him (Deslauriers) what we had heard – that there were a lot more allegations than what he had let on,” said Ménard. “I told him, ‘I don’t think you should be staying here either.’”

In his March 1986 report to the local diocese, Ménard made it clear that Deslauriers should immediately be suspended from all parish work. Ménard also recommended that Deslauriers not be allowed back into a parish until he’d completed an intensive therapy course in Montreal that included psychological treatment.

The diocese, Ménard said, whittled his nine-page report down to three pages and removed the specific reference to treatment in Montreal.

Citizens for Community Renewal attorney Allan Manson suggested Ménard’s freedom from “diocesan hierarchy” let him pursue his investigation more thoroughly than a member of the local diocese would have been able to.

“You could say that I was very deeply concerned,” said Ménard. “Maybe my understanding of the seriousness of this was a little quicker (because of) my contacts with the parents.”

Still, Ménard never concluded that LaRocque was more interested in preserving Deslauriers’ reputation than he was in getting his victims the help they needed.

“I didn’t feel that he wanted to protect one or the other, just that he didn’t know what to do to heal the situation,” said Ménard.

The bishop also wanted to pay for therapy for the victims from the outset, he added. In his recommendations to the inquiry – which is looking at how institutions like the diocese handled historical sexual abuse allegations – Ménard said church officials have to intervene “as quickly as possible” when confronted with abuse allegations.

“If there’s any doubts whatsoever, any worry, any concern, one has to listen (to the victim),” said Ménard. “Be sure that the accused person is heard as well, because sometimes there can be false allegations. But take these allegations seriously.”

He also recommended removing accused priests from any position where they might interact with children, even “without (having) hard proof or evidence.”

The inquiry is set to resume this morning at 9:30 a.m.

Article ID# 1135086


Comments on this Article.

Just out of curiousity, shouldn’t the title of this article read: “””Former bishop out of his MIND when it came to handling allegations, says priest who had inside info?”””

Reply | Report | Page Top Post #1 By saintpeter-47,