A Roman Catholic diocese in Ontario has quietly settled 10 sexual abuse lawsuits in the past month, paying out more than $1.5 million in connection to allegations dating back more than 50 years.
All of the settlements involve male victims who allege they were repeatedly molested by two priests from the London diocese at parishes across southwestern Ontario.
The victims, who are now in their 60s and 70s, launched individual lawsuits last year, said London-based lawyer Robert Talach yesterday.
"The book never really truly closes, but this is definitely a big step toward closure for some of them," he said. "Some of the gentlemen I dealt with waited half a century before they really spoke this aloud to anyone else. Coming out after all those years, it just goes to the fact to show how traumatic it is, that you wouldn't breathe a word of it for five decades."
The settlements were quickly reached between Talach and diocese officials following two days of negotiations. They range from about $100,000 to $315,000.
The diocese said it was "pleased" to have reached the settlements and urged other victims to come forward.
"We are committed to living up to our responsibilities and obligations to victims of sexual misconduct in the search for justice and truth," said Mark Adkinson, a spokesperson with the diocese.
"We are sorry for all of the hurt these and other victims have experienced. We continue to offer counselling to all victims of sexual misconduct by clergy."
Most of the cases involve Father Lawrence (Laurent) Paquette, who died in 1986 before these allegations were officially brought forward.
The sexual abuse occurred at parishes where Paquette worked since he was ordained in 1943, with the majority in Grande Pointe, a small francophone community near Windsor, Ont.
The victims allege the sexual abuse was repeated over a period as long as two years and some of the boys were as young as 11. One of the other lawsuits involves Father Barry Glendinning and a sexual abuse claim by a man who was 15 in the mid-1960s in Windsor, Ont.
Talach is dealing with at least 200 more lawsuits involving sexual abuse claims against Catholic clergy from Nova Scotia to Saskatchewan.