Defrocking of abuser begins

National Post, Canada/September 22, 2006

Windsor, Ont. - Bishop Ronald Fabbro of the London diocese has officially told the Vatican he will begin the difficult process of defrocking retired priest Charles Sylvestre, who has admitted sexually abusing 47 girls. One of Sylvestre's victims said yesterday that Bishop Fabbro's actions are an encouraging sign of support after decades of skepticism among church officials and even victims' families that the abuse occurred. "It's a huge relief," said Mary Beth Studnicka, 41, who became Sylvestre's victim in 1975 at the age of 10. "Any gesture of support from the diocese is important. With him having made that one of his tasks in Rome, we're on the right track." Bishop Fabbro, seen below with one of the victims, promised in August he would ask the Vatican to laicize, or defrock, Sylvestre, 83, who has confessed to sexually abusing girls over four decades. He is to be sentenced Oct. 6. Bishop Fabbro took the first step in the long defrocking process during a recent visit to Rome, where he also met with the Pope and other Vatican officials, according to diocese spokesman Ron Pickersgill. He said the bishop expressed his intentions to the Vatican's Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which is made up of cardinals who oversee and promote Catholic faith and morals. Bishop Fabbro has said he will also review the cases of seven other priests from the diocese convicted of sexual assault to determine if they, too, should be defrocked. He still has not made a decision on those priests.

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