By Francois Gloutnay Catholic News Service
MONTREAL (CNS) -- A Superior Court judge authorized the filing of a class action suit related to sex abuse cases against the Diocese of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec.
Judge Chantal Corriveau authorized the against the diocese on behalf of "all persons, as well as their heirs and assigns, who were sexually assaulted by a member of the clergy, an employee or a volunteer, lay or religious, who was under his responsibility" or that of the bishops who directed him "during the period between Jan. 1, 1940, and the judgment to be rendered."
One day later, June 10, eight victims had already signed up for the class action, according to lawyers from Arsenault Dufresne Wee Avocats. All incidents took place in a rectory or a parish church under the jurisdiction of the diocese, and all of them occurred before 1975, more than 45 years ago. Only one case involved the beadle or sexton involved, a job usually held by a layman, reported Présence info.
In the news release announcing the authorization of the class action, the law firm said when a victim wanted to denounce the assaults, he was told "that the diocese needed priests." This happened in 1975 against a priest who was well known throughout the diocese.
Denis Charpentier, the diocesan bursar, said, "It's a decision we expected." He said diocesan officials had not yet met with their lawyers.
The authorization of a class action marks the beginning of the judicial process. All the facts put forward in the application will have to be proved at an eventual trial. It is always possible, in the meantime, that the parties will reach an agreement out of court.
In May a court authorized a class action against the Archdiocese of Quebec. In that case, 92 victims came forward and identified 80 alleged aggressors, mostly priests. The lawyers of Arsenault Dufresne Wee Avocats are also leading that case.
- - -
Gloutnay is a staffer of Présence info, Montreal.