Canada’s Supreme Court says archdiocese is responsible for orphanage abuse

Supreme Court of Canada. Credit: Robert Linsdell via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

CNA Staff, Jan 14, 2021 / 05:47 pm (CNA).- Canada’s highest court has ruled that the Archdiocese of St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador will be responsible for Mount Cashel Orphanage child abuse lawsuits against the Congregation of Christian Brothers.

On Thursday, Canada’s Supreme Court announced that it rejected a final appeal of the archdiocese, which had argued that it should not be held responsible for abuse by the congregation (also known as the Christian Brothers of Ireland), because it was the lay group of brothers and not diocesan priests in charge of the orphanage.

The court did not provide a reason for its decision.

According to the CBC, the decision ends a 21-year court process for a case involving four men, who served as “test cases” for about 60 men total, who suffered abuse as children at Mount Cashel Orphanage between the 1950s-1970s. The abuse was uncovered in a 1989 investigation known as the Hughes Inquiry.

The Archdiocese of St. John’s will now be responsible for paying any outstanding settlements with the men since the Christian Brothers of Ireland went bankrupt nine years ago. The CBC reported that the archdiocese will now be responsible for paying roughly $2.61 million in damages for the four victims in the case.

“As this judgement has just been received, the Archdiocese will need to review and analyze it with its legal counsel before providing any further comment,” the Archdiocese of St. John’s said in a statement posted to its website on January 14.

“The Archdiocese of St. John’s has immense sympathy for those who suffered abuse at Mount Cashel Orphanage and we ask that all join with us in praying for healing for those who suffer as a result of abuse.”

Blessed Edmund Rice founded the Presentations Brothers, later called the Christian Brothers, in Ireland in 1808. They were founded as an order of men dedicated to education of poor children, and the Brothers became renowned for their schools all over the world.

Beginning in the 1980s, numerous accusations of child abuse in schools and homes run by the Christian Brothers emerged in multiple countries, including the United States, Ireland, Australia and the U.K. as well as Canada.

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