- bbc world of news
More than 3,500 miles from where Pope Francis apologized to indigenous Canadians on Monday, other survivors of abuse by the Catholic Church in Canada are set to receive compensation that goes beyond words.
The Archdiocese of Saint John of Newfoundland, on this huge Canadian island, has sold 43 properties to pay for the economic agreement that was reached with the victims of the mount cashel boarding schoolin which hundreds of children suffered sexual abuse for decades.
Claims could exceed $40 million.
Among the properties that have had to be discarded is the Cathedral Basilica of Saint John the Baptist167 years old and a symbol of Catholicism in Newfoundland. The temple, which rises in a privileged location overlooking the bay, has been sold for US$2.3 million to a Catholic foundation.
At least 12 other churches, the archbishop’s residence, schools, apartments, parish halls and land were also put up for sale. The value of the properties exceeds US$15 million, insufficient to cover all the compensation that the Archdiocese of San Juan has been ordered to pay.
the orphanage of horrors
The Mount Cashel Orphanage in San Juan was run for more than a century by the Congregation of the Christian Brothers. Over the decades, children sent there were subjected to beatings and sexual assault. The abuses, one of the largest pedophile scandals in the Catholic Church in Canada, were also covered up by officials, politicians and the Newfoundland police.
In 1975, after several complaints, the police interviewed several children from the orphanage, who reported physical and sexual assaultand even two religious confessed to these abuses. But the case was covered up by the church, the police and the justice system. The confessed pederasts were taken to other dioceses in the country where, it later became known, they continued to commit attacks.
The cases did not begin to be investigated seriously until 1989, when a commission was formed that, over two years, heard the testimony of dozens of victims and witnesses. In its conclusions, the commission determined that the victims should be compensated and that the Christian Brothers should have been prosecuted as early as 1975. Eleven members of the congregation were sentenced to between 4 months and 11 years.
The intership was shot down in 1992.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeals ruled in 2019 that the Archdiocese of Saint John of Newfoundland was “indirectly responsible” of the atrocities committed in Mount Cashel since, although it was managed by the Christian Brothers, the archdiocese allowed and covered up the abuses that were committed between the decades of the 40s and 60s in the boarding school.
The court awarded compensation of US$2 million to four victims, thus opening the door to a hundred more claims. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the sentence in 2021.
The sale now of the church buildings is the last step in a process that has lasted decades.
The Archbishop, Peter Hundt, has acknowledged that another 70 properties are going to be put up for sale to meet the payments.
Some of the temples have been acquired by Catholic groups and foundations that plan to continue giving them a religious use, but not all of them.
The neighbours from some of the affected towns, fearful of being left without a place of worship, are organizing to raise funds and buy the properties.
Mount Cashel is one of the abused boarding schools in Canada, but not the only one.
In others, such as those belonging to the network of Indian Residential Schools, Also run by Christian churches, thousands of children were indoctrinated to leave their native culture and suffered brutal physical and psychological abuse.
The children were separated from their families and taken to boarding schools run by Catholic priests and nuns from the end of the 19th century and until the 1990s, as part of a program that sought to create a cultural integration of the natives with the ruling white culture.
It is estimated that at least 6,000 children died due to these attacks, although the figure could reach 30,000, in what is considered an attempt to cultural genocide.
It is for these facts that Pope Francis apologized this Monday “for the evil committed by so many Christians against indigenous peoples,” who cooperated in “cultural destruction and forced assimilation.”
Although Mount Cashel was not part of this network of Indian Residential Schools, some children from native families also ended up within its walls.
One of them, Penote Antuan, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CDC) that, more than 60 years later, he still cannot talk about what he experienced in the boarding school, which he entered when he was 9 years old, and that he has never detailed his experience neither his parents nor his seven children. “You cannot imagine how they treated us because we were Innu. I am now 73 years old, but my scars are still there“.
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