The largest Catholic archdiocese in B.C. has released a first-of-its-kind report naming nine clergymen with connections to the Lower Mainland who have been convicted or sued for sexual abuse over the last several decades.
The report, published Friday, is the result of an investigation launched a year ago by the Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, which serves 443,000 Catholics in the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast and the Interior, at the request of Archbishop J. Michael Miller following disclosure around the world of sexual abuse by the clergy.
A review committee, made up of two external lawyers and the archdiocese’s lawyer, analyzed several cases and found at least 26 sexual assaults took place in the region over the last 70 years.
Ten other cases involved consensual adult relationships “where, of course, the imbalance of power made them likely to be abusive,” the report reads.
Three allegations still under review involve active priests, who have already been removed from the ministry. Only one has been allowed to return, once it was determined the case did not specifically involve sexual abuse.
The clergymen who are named in the report are either dead or no longer active.
Paul Blancard, born in 1940, was investigated for an alleged assault of a girl aged six or seven in the 1960s in Burnaby, and convicted in 1992 for a sex assault while he served as a priest in Victoria.
Harold McIntee was sentenced in the 1990s to two years in jail for the sexual abuse of 17 boys, including some forced into residential schools, over 25 years across B.C. McIntee died in 2016 at the age of 86.
Lawrence Edward Cooper, born in 1958, was first accused of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 15-year-old he met in 1985 at a camp on Gambier Island in Howe Sound. The victim reported the abuse in 1994, but Cooper was no longer serving in Vancouver. The case was later settled out of court.
In New York, Cooper was accused of having a sexual relationship with an adult parishioner. He tried to return to Vancouver in 2002, but the archdiocese refused his application.
John McCann, born in 1928, was convicted in 1991 of six counts of sex abuse of girls during the 1970s in New Westminster. He served 10 months in jail and was removed by the archdiocese, but went on to serve as a priest on Salt Spring Island, in Victoria and in Ottawa.
A number of other cases are still being reviewed, the report says, and more victims could be out there.
“Although nothing can undo the wrong that was done to you, I nonetheless wish to offer each of you my heartfelt apology for the trauma, the violation in body and soul, and the sense of betrayal and abandonment by the Church that you feel,” said Miller, the archbishop, in a statement.
“For those occasions when we failed to protect you or when we were more concerned with the Church’s reputation than with your suffering, I am truly sorry and ask for your forgiveness as I strive to make amends and bind your wounds.”
The report makes 31 recommendations, mostly aimed at improving the process to report abuse, as well as ongoing education and training for priests and trauma counselling for victims.
Miller said the church will create a group whose sole focus will be to put the recommendations in motion.
Earlier this year, the archdiocese launched an anonymous hotline for victims to report abuse. Next year, it will launch an office of victim/survivor support for complaints to be received by third-party psychologists and social workers 24/7.
Two independent non-Catholic lawyers have been hired to investigate future claims and further review files.