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What a sin


In St. John’s for the last few months, lawyers, witnesses and experts have been toiling through experiences, memories and damage that occurred at the Mount Cashel Orphanage years ago, as the court is being asked to determine whether the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corp. of St. John’s is liable for abuse suffered by boys at the orphanage.

It’s similar to a case fought on the west coast of this province, where victims of Father Kevin Bennett sued the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. George’s, which later sought bankruptcy protection.

See related: Diocese pays out final compensation to abuse victims

But another case, this time in London, Ont., is hearing blunt evidence from church insurers that a diocese not only moved and protected abusive priests from investigation, but deliberately withheld that information from insurers as well — something the insurers argue should void the diocese’s insurance policies.

This is only the insurance company’s version (as quoted by the judge in the ongoing case), but it is 293 chilling words.

“(In) 2006, the Diocese publicly disclosed documentation in its possession since 1962, i.e. prior to issuance of the policy, which showed that (Father Charles) Sylvestre had been investigated by Sarnia police following complaints made that he had sexually assaulted a number of children within his parish; the Diocese subsequently acknowledged that these allegations and police investigations came to attention of officials within the Diocese in January 1962; similar allegations of sexual assault made by children against (Father John) Harper were reported to officials at the Diocese in 1964 and were known to the Bishop who directed that Harper receive psychiatric treatment. There are a number of actions involving Harper; the Diocese dealt with the allegations of sexual assault by these priests in secrecy as required by Canon Law; the sexual assaults by Sylvestre and Harper, and the subsequent placement of these priests into positions of trust and authority in relation to children, was information material to the risk allegedly insured by Great American; the Diocese failed to disclose that information to Great American at the time the Diocese allegedly applied for and obtained insurance coverage and renewals; the Diocese made material misrepresentations and/or failed to disclose material facts at the time of its application for coverage and for renewals of coverage; if the Diocese had disclosed the information it had concerning Sylvestre and Harper, Great American would have refused to provide a policy of insurance or any renewal, would have refused to insure against liability arising from assault and battery, would have included appropriate exclusions, and/or would have increased the quantum of the premium charged given that this information dramatically affected the risk; any policy that might have been issued to the Diocese by Great American is void … as a result of material misrepresentation and/or non-disclosure.”

Sylvestre eventually pleaded guilty to 47 counts of indecent assault, after continuing in active ministry for 31 years after the original complaint.

What has the church wrought?

 

It’s similar to a case fought on the west coast of this province, where victims of Father Kevin Bennett sued the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. George’s, which later sought bankruptcy protection.

See related: Diocese pays out final compensation to abuse victims

But another case, this time in London, Ont., is hearing blunt evidence from church insurers that a diocese not only moved and protected abusive priests from investigation, but deliberately withheld that information from insurers as well — something the insurers argue should void the diocese’s insurance policies.

This is only the insurance company’s version (as quoted by the judge in the ongoing case), but it is 293 chilling words.

“(In) 2006, the Diocese publicly disclosed documentation in its possession since 1962, i.e. prior to issuance of the policy, which showed that (Father Charles) Sylvestre had been investigated by Sarnia police following complaints made that he had sexually assaulted a number of children within his parish; the Diocese subsequently acknowledged that these allegations and police investigations came to attention of officials within the Diocese in January 1962; similar allegations of sexual assault made by children against (Father John) Harper were reported to officials at the Diocese in 1964 and were known to the Bishop who directed that Harper receive psychiatric treatment. There are a number of actions involving Harper; the Diocese dealt with the allegations of sexual assault by these priests in secrecy as required by Canon Law; the sexual assaults by Sylvestre and Harper, and the subsequent placement of these priests into positions of trust and authority in relation to children, was information material to the risk allegedly insured by Great American; the Diocese failed to disclose that information to Great American at the time the Diocese allegedly applied for and obtained insurance coverage and renewals; the Diocese made material misrepresentations and/or failed to disclose material facts at the time of its application for coverage and for renewals of coverage; if the Diocese had disclosed the information it had concerning Sylvestre and Harper, Great American would have refused to provide a policy of insurance or any renewal, would have refused to insure against liability arising from assault and battery, would have included appropriate exclusions, and/or would have increased the quantum of the premium charged given that this information dramatically affected the risk; any policy that might have been issued to the Diocese by Great American is void … as a result of material misrepresentation and/or non-disclosure.”

Sylvestre eventually pleaded guilty to 47 counts of indecent assault, after continuing in active ministry for 31 years after the original complaint.

What has the church wrought?

 

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