A review of Vancouver church files has found 26 cases of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests against minors since the 1950s, according to a report on clergy sexual abuse released by the Archdiocese of Vancouver on Friday.
An additional 10 cases were also discovered involving consensual adult relationships where the “imbalance of power made them likely to be abusive,” as well as three cases involving priests who had fathered children.
The numbers were made public – a first for a Catholic diocese in Canada – after the Archdiocese of Vancouver appointed a committee to address what it called “the worldwide crisis” of sexual abuse by priests.
The committee also made 31 recommendations, also released Friday, urging the Archdiocese of Vancouver to publish a list of clergy who were guilty of sexual abuse, including those who have been “credibly accused” but not convicted, calling it “an absolute imperative.”
While the archdiocese released the names and photos of five priests who have been criminally convicted, as well as two others who settled lawsuits and two other “public cases,” it stopped short of publishing information about credibly accused priests, who “have not been convicted, but of whose guilt we are morally certain.”
The archdiocese cited Canadian privacy legislation, but noted they would publish more if they were able. A complete list of the assignments of each priest named publicly is expected to be provided on the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s website in the near future.
“The Archdiocese has dealt with a number of cases that are not mentioned here,” the report continued. “These courageous claimants who contacted the Archdiocese were heard and believed. The fact that these cases are not dealt with in this report does not mean they were unfounded. Each file will be reviewed with care by … newly-appointed independent lawyer-investigators.”
The report also contained more information about the Archdiocese of Vancouver, noting there was never a practice of shuffling priests, unlike in many other major cities. “The only case we are aware of was more than 50 years ago.”
The report said the archdiocese was not aware of any priests who are strongly suspected of having abused children or adults currently working in the archdiocese or another diocese.
In a letter at the beginning of the report, Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller said he realized “no expression of regret can repair the horror of what happened … I nonetheless wish to offer each of you my heartfelt apology for the trauma, the violation in body and soul, and the sense of betrayal and abandonment by the Church that you feel.”
Miller appointed the 13-person committee after news in 2018 of a grand jury naming 300 priests accused of abusing 1,000 victims in Pennsylvania. The Vancouver committee, which included “highly respected lawyers,” a psychologist and four abuse survivors, reviewed 36 sexual abuse cases dating to 1950.
The Vancouver Archdiocese presides over 443,000 parishioners in Metro Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast, Powell River and parts of the Interior and northern B.C.
In a summary of its recommendations, the committee said that one of its “most devastating realizations” what that victims in historical cases had to sign confidentiality agreements, meaning their stories were not made public.
“When abusers’ names are made public, other victims feel able to come forward,” said the committee. “Thus, there are still people in this Archdiocese who continue to suffer in silence, keeping unhealthy secrets to themselves, living in shame that is not theirs to hold, believing they are alone and believing they are the only ones who have suffered such violation and degradation at the hands of a particular priest.
“This has to stop, and this has to stop now. As a Church, we have to acknowledge these grave failings and we have to rectify this.”