Catholic diocese settles sex abuse cases, Canada/October 17, 2008

Two men who launched multimillion-dollar lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie, claiming sexual abuse at the hands of one of its priests, have reached a settlement with the regional church authority.

The two accusers - Robert Berube and a man who identifies himself only as Claude - allege that Father Jean-Claude Etienne of Warren, near Sudbury, abused them more than three decades ago.

Etienne is no longer living.

The following news release was issued today in Sudbury by London, Ontario-based Ledroit Beckett Litigation Lawyers:

Father Jean-Claude Etienne victims settle

Almost forty years ago in a small village not far from here a horrible crime was committed; a sexual crime.

It happened not once, not twice but for years against these two men.

But what made this crime so much worse was that these two were not men at that time but only boys.

Even more disturbing was the fact that the perpetrator of these crimes was none other than their own parish priest, Father Jean-Claude Etienne.

After decades of silence and pain and more recently following years of outspoken defiance these men have finally achieved some justice.

I say some and not absolute justice for their abuser died without having to account for his crimes.

Another irreversible fact is that the damage inflicted upon their minds and souls will never completely fade.

Yet for someone from a time and place when a priest could do no harm; today is a day long in coming.

The conclusion of their lawsuits brings them vindication, closure and a measure of healing.

The primary purpose of their appearance here today is to reach out to others who have endured such evil acts.

To let them know that light does exist at the end of what may appear to be an endless tunnel.

During the course of their lawsuits these men learned of other victims of Father Etienne who let that darkness swallow them up when they tragically committed suicide.

Their message is to seek help, seek justice and seek life.

Robert and Claude also wish to thank those who spoke up so that the truth could be known.

Fellow victims and others stepped forward to answer their call.

As a result of the public's awareness of this matter information was obtained which assisted in corroborating their claims of abuse.

Most dramatic of all was the information which was received by my office that a letter was sent to Father Etienne from Bishop Alexander Carter in July 1970.

The letter which was viewed by a witness, warned Etienne to stay away from a number of altar boys due to complaints from their parents.

It listed a number of local boys by name.

To the local Diocese and the Roman Catholic Church, both clergy and faithful, these men wish to issue a public pronouncement.

We are but a pair of many.

There are others who need the gentle hand of truth and justice to guide them out of the darkness.

Please extend your Christian beliefs to the treatment of them.

We the victims of your own wayward shepherds deserve true pastoral care and compassion.

Take action to both heal those wounded and to prevent future causalities of sexual perversion.

Finally, thanks is due to the reporters, the editors and the media outlets who have covered this and similar matters.

Without the exposure and interest generated by the media getting to the bottom of these crimes would not be possible.

Today you truly provide a public service.

Thank you.

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