The Montreal Gray Nuns’ Trust Order has asked a Canadian court to order Holy Cross to pay compensation to victims of sexual abuse by clergy. It is part of an approved class action lawsuit against the Women’s Order.
A legal issue was at the center of a Nov. 16 court hearing in Montreal involving two religious orders. In March, Quebec Superior Court Judge Suzanne Courchesne said in approving the class-action lawsuit that it aims to cover “any person or the estate of a deceased person” who claims to be at any of the three locations owned by the Gray nuns, which operate in Montreal. “Victims of sexual abuse and/or physical abuse and/or mental abuse”
These locations include Crèche d’Youville Day Care, Notre-Dame de Liesse School and the Montreal Catholic Orphanage. The court wants to compensate victims who were committed to one of the two institutions between 1925 and 1973.
One of these victims, Jacques Beaulieu, suffered physical and psychological abuse from both religious and lay people while at Notre-Dame de Liesse, a school run by religious women. She claims the priest was sexually abused.
Court documents show the nuns handed the boy and some other children over to a priest on Sundays. Court records say he used the opportunity to sexually abuse the children. The priest has been identified as Father Conrad LaRouche of Holy Cross Congregation. Father LaRouche was priest in 1967 and 1968, and also taught at Saint-Laurent College from 1947 to 1967. He died on September 16, 2000 at the age of 80.
Lawyers for the Gray nuns say the Holy Cross congregation “must answer for the wrongdoings of its employees and therefore be held jointly and severally liable if abuse is proven.” Leaders of the priesthood “must be held accountable for their mistakes and shortcomings, if they have the full power and authority to do so in order to prevent or end abuse,” the movement’s advocates say. Ash Sannyasis.
The Congregation of Holy Cross issued a statement after the court hearing, stressing that it “strongly and unequivocally condemns all acts of impropriety affecting children and vulnerable persons”. The society declined to comment further on the proceedings.
A four-hour trial
During the four-hour hearing, an important legal point was brought to the court’s attention by a lawyer from Holy Cross.
Long before the class action lawsuit against the nuns was approved, the lawyer said, the Congregation of Holy Cross was already the subject of a separate class action lawsuit. The case concerns victims of abuse by council members. Father Larouche is also mentioned. His mention in two class action lawsuits leads to a series of controversies that must be resolved by a second judge at the Quebec Supreme Court.
After both class actions are approved, the court must now decide whether the victim is entitled to both sets of damages. Another issue still to be decided is whether the court should exclude victims of the Congregation of Holy Cross from the class action lawsuit against the Gray Nuns and accept only the lawsuits against the Gray Nuns. Judge Pierre Nollet has announced that he will announce his decision in January.
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