The Catholic Church battling for its image, marred by a horde of sexual abuse cases in the last two decades is once again in the news in Canada. In an attempt to compensate the victims of sexual abuse in an orphanage in the Mount Cashel Orphanage in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), the Canadian Court has approved the sales of 43 Catholic Church properties, including 13 churches, to settle the victim claims. This is just the beginning of the compensation process as there are plans to sell another 70 properties in the coming times, presumably to compensate the victims.
Information about the abuses at Mount Cashel Orphanage has been floating around for many years now. In 1975, a police investigation on the Irish Christian Brothers, a Roman Catholic lay order, who had been running the orphanage, came to a close with no convictions. But rumours in public grew, an increasing number of stories on abuse started coming to light, and the investigation was reopened in February 1989.
“Over the following months, the public learned that the (orphanage) had for decades been the site of repeated acts of physical and sexual abuse performed by Christian Brothers against boys who lived there as wards of the state,” Heritage N.L. reported on its website.
“It also learned that police, government, and religious authorities were aware of the abuse but took little action, despite complaints from residents and confessions from two of the brothers. Local newspapers ignored or downplayed the allegations.”
In 1992, the Irish Christian Brothers made a public apology to the victims and later also paid CAN$16 million ($12.2 million), while the province paid CAN$11 million ($8.5 million) to victims for its role in sending boys to the orphanage.
The information about the current sales came into the open when Ernst & Young, the court-appointed monitor, presented a report to the court about the sale-by-tender process, which saw bids for the properties submitted in early June.
The repercussions of the sales will have disastrous consequences for the Catholics not only in eastern Newfoundland but beyond as more and more sales are in the offing. The buyers of these properties are mostly private players who will most likely not use the buildings for church purposes.
No dollar figures have yet been placed on the victim settlement, but in the coming days, the children who suffered sexual and physical abuse in the Mount Cashel Orphanage in the 1940s,50s and 60s are finally going to find some form of justice in the last leg of their lives.