Catholic World Report

Montreal archbishop appoints ombudsman to oversee abuse complaints

By Autumn Jones for CNA

Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal, Canada. Credit: Travis Wise via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Archdiocese of Montreal announced Wednesday the appointment of an independent ombudsman, Marie Christine Kirouac, to receive all complaints of abuse or inappropriate conduct within the archdiocese.

The appointment continues the implementation of recommendations set forth in the Capriolo Report released in November 2020.

“We have a responsibility to report to the ombudsman any circumstance of abuse,” said Archbishop Christian Lépine of Montreal May 5. “It is essential we honor our commitment and remain vigilant. The appointment of the first ombudsman and the implementation of these new procedures will better enable us to protect the faithful and the wider community.”

Kirouac, a lawyer with almost 30 years of service and extensive experience in crisis intervention, will oversee the follow-up in each case. She will also provide a detailed report about the types of complaints at least once per year, and will make the report available to the public.

“It is my role to ensure that no form of abuse or inappropriate behavior will be tolerated in the Catholic Church,” Kirouac said. “I will ensure that any person who contacts me has a listening ear.”

Complaints will be accepted 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Complaints will be heard irrespective of the victim’s age at the time of the reported act. If the complainant is a minor and the abuse is physical or sexual in nature, the ombudsman will inform the Direction de la Protection de la Jeunesse (DPJ, Department of Youth Protection) in addition to referring the complaint to the advisory committee.

Upon receiving a complaint, Kirouac will determine if the action constitutes abuse or inappropriate behavior. Any complaint determined to fall under the category of abuse—sexual, physical, psychological, spiritual or financial—will be referred to a newly formed advisory committee composed of five lay members, including one victim and four professionals with various areas of expertise.

Since its introduction in November 2020, more than 50 percent of the Capriolo Report’s recommendations have already been implemented. Additional procedures were implemented Wednesday, including the responsibilities of the ombudsman and the position of the advisory committee.

Authored by Pepita G. Capriolo, a retired Québec Superior Court Justice, the report includes 31 recommendations in the areas of responsibility, accountability, transparency, formation, archives, and support of victims. The remaining recommendations in the report are expected to be implemented by the end of 2021.

The report concerns former diocesan priest Brian Boucher, who was ordained a priest in 1996 and worked in 10 Montreal churches as far back as the early 1980s. In January 2019 he was convicted of sexual assault of a minor in one case, and pleaded guilty to sexual assault of another minor. He was later sentenced to eight years in prison.

Kirouac’s position as ombudsman began May 3 and will continue without a defined term limit. A team of individuals yet to be named will support Kirouac should the number of complaints necessitate additional personnel.

“We must dutifully intervene to prevent suffering,” Archbishop Lépine said. “All victims will be welcomed with compassion and receive care.

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