Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Forgiving His Sins

"It seems evident that, today, with the protocols set in place by the dioceses and the new norms of Rome, it is no longer possible that a priest, with a history like Mr. Deslauriers, could be incardinated successively in three different dioceses and to continue to exercise ministry."
Msgr. Pierre Morisette, Bishop of Saint-Jerome, Quebec

"Now we have to call the police. That's one of the differences."
"Much has been learned by everyone from the Pope on down. ... We won't have a knee-jerk reaction of denial."
Archbishop Anthony Mancini, Halifax-Yarmouth, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, chair, committee on sexual abuse

"He brought a very significant turnaround in the whole atmosphere of the school. The whole faith aspect really blossomed. It kinda became cool to be involved in the church."
"Part of his manipulation was protecting himself, by not only working at appealing to us, but also pushing others away, creating mistrust of others, sometimes in very subtle ways, so that basically we wouldn't tend to confide in others about things that were happening with him. It was enticing."
"[It was] really presented as a therapy, and kind of an introspection. How do you feel? What comes through your mind?"
"He was very stoic, if I can use that term ... very professional. Never did I get the sense that he wanted me to do something to him. [It was almost] respectful. That's sly too. I never denied that I consented. He had so convinced me that I needed that therapy [sexual abuse] that that's why I went back for it."
"It was kind of weird. He was offering [the abuse] as therapy, so it was clear that in his mind there was nothing wrong. But I felt it was wrong. So I was telling the person who didn't think it was wrong that I thought it was wrong. That's how messed up it was. I look back and I laugh at myself."
"On the one hand I believe he really wanted to help, in a very warped way. I also believe that, for some reason, he needed to be needed. He needed to be valued. And he felt he could make a positive difference in our lives."
"He was my idol. I wanted to be a priest like him. He was my hero. I had become aware of the control he had on me. I needed to break that. I was terrified of him."
"Forgiveness is not a one-time thing. It's a journey, and I came to realize it's a freeing journey. Revenge can easily make me a prisoner. The church is human. I'm worthy in the sense that I'm a sinner like everyone else."
Father Claude Thibeault, parish of Ste.Therese-de-Lisieux, Cornwall, Ontario
Tyler Anderson/National Post
Tyler Anderson/National Post    Father Claude Thibault, a victim of sexual abuse by a notorious priest whose crimes and coverup were exposed by a major inquiry, poses for a portrait in Cornwall, Ont.

They are all speaking of Father Gilles Deslauriers, now 77, thought to be living now in anonymity in a small house in a suburb of Montreal, but no longer performing ministry in the church. He had been ordained in 1970 as a Catholic priest by a mentor and friend, the late Bishop Adolphe Proulx. Bishop Proulx had offered to supervise Fr. Deslauriers after a trial in the mid 1980s when he was given a suspended sentence and two years probation, ordered to therapy and to be supervised by Bishop Proulx. He had been committed to trial on seven counts of indecent assault and four of gross indecency.

Before that time he was thought to be smart, amusing and unconventional. He informed his students that he had graduate degrees in philosophy and psychology, was knowledgeable about matter sexual; none of it true, but setting the stage to present himself as someone to be trusted when young people were puzzled about sexual relations; he would set them straight and give them comfort and release from their curiosity and fears. Bishop Proulx moved to the Diocese of Hull, and his successor noted a tension between Fr. Deslauriers and other priests in the diocese, who complained of his controlling, manipulative traits.

But he was held in high regard and the new bishop, Eugene LaRocque, encouraged by his predecessor's glowing review of Fr. Delauriers, appointed him to act as school chaplain at the Cornwall high school La Citadelle, for its mostly Catholic students. The young lad who was then Claude Thibault was one of those students when in 1977 Fr. Deslauriers was given that trusted position, and took pains to ingratiate himself into the trust of the students. He began a Saturday afternoon question period, one for girls, another for boys, where they were encouraged to ask questions, many of them relating to sex, sometimes at Fr. Deslauriers' urging.
Courtesy of Claude Thibault
Claude Thibault at age 15 ... photograph courtesy of Claude Thibault
Claude Thibault knew little about sex and was concerned about marriage intimacies. Fr. Deslauriers assured him he could lead him to confidence in a future healthy relationship through a series of 'therapies'. Which turned out to be instructionals not quite within the status of marriage as a Catholic sacrament, but in how he could conduct a hands-on exploration of sex. These instructional episodes took place regularly over a six-month period, until Claude Thibault moved on from high school to university. Later, when he decided to enrol in the Catholic seminary to pursue the priesthood, he found himself under the vocational direction of Fr. Deslauriers and a crisis developed.

"When I say rebellion I was also trying to search, to understand, because it didn't become clear overnight what had happened. So in that search and in that confusion, I closed in on myself. The dilemma was I couldn't just drop Gilles." Eventually he confided in Bishop LaRocque; the first time he was rebuffed, the second time when he revealed the sexual abuse,  he was believed but it was kept an internal church matter. A secret ad-hoc diocesan committee was set up by the bishop to examine the situation. The committee found, among other things, a bank account in Fr. Deslauriers' name with $150,000 which an auditor felt had been filched away from church activities.

When complainants who had stepped forward with their stories of abuse discovered nothing was being done, they approached the local press and the police became involved. Which is when the trial took place and the conviction. Bishop Proulx had died halfway through the court-assigned probation period. Before he died, however, he had moved the convicted priest quietly out of Cornwall into Quebec where he arrived in 1987 to the diocese of Saint-Jerome, placed in charge of Saint-Adele parish, his appointment renewed in 1990. Six years later he was removed "officially for reasons of health" according to Msgr. Morissette. There had been "difficulties" in the parish, accusations made of Fr. Deslauriers sexual touching, rumours of abuse of young boys.

Fr. Deslauriers is still a priest in the Catholic church. "A priest is always a priest. You can call him an abuser but he's still a priest", explained Archbishop Mancini. Ordination cannot be reversed. As for Claude Thibault, he was himself ordained a priest in early 1986. His parish is Ste.-Therese-de-Lisieux, in Cornwall. And he forgives Fr. Deslauriers.

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