Defrocked Arctic priest says he’s sorry for sex abuse of children
Published Thursday, January 22, 2015 6:28AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 22, 2015 1:09PM EST
IQALUIT, Nunavut — A courtroom swelled with weeping, cries and 35 years of bottled-up grief Thursday as a defrocked priest who abused dozens of Inuit children told a judge about to sentence him that he’s sorry for his crimes and won’t commit any more.
“I can only take responsibility for what I have done,” said Eric Dejaeger, 67, convicted on 32 counts of child sex abuse from his days as an Oblate missionary in Igloolik, Nunavut, between 1978 and 1982.
Speaking quietly, in a voice heavily accented by his native Flemish, Dejaeger faced Justice Robert Kilpatrick in an Iqaluit courtroom and spoke for less than a minute.
“I would like to ask for forgiveness,” he said. “I promise not to reoffend — and that’s not just words.”
That cued a crescendo of sorrow and tears from about 30 victims and supporters who had gathered to see their one-time tormentor for what they hoped was the last time. After court adjourned, one victim and his wife embraced in the middle of the room, motionless, she holding him up as everyone filed out around them.
It was the end of a story that began for some victims when they were as young as four and which played out across three decades and two continents. It raised questions about the role of the Catholic church and Canadian officials in delaying justice for those still suffering mental scars from horrific attacks.
The victims include 12 boys and 10 girls, most between the ages of eight and 12. Dejaeger also abused a dog in front of two children.
Many testified that Dejaeger used his position to trap them into sex, threatening them with hellfire or separation from their families if they told. Sometimes he dangled food in front of hungry children as a lure.
Dejaeger has already served one five-year sentence on 11 counts of assaulting children in Baker Lake, Nunavut, where he was posted after Igloolik.
It was in 1995, after he had served that sentence, that he learned RCMP were about to charge him for his activities in Igloolik. He fled to his native Belgium, testifying in court that Canadian justice officials suggested it would be easiest if he simply left Canada, where he had become a citizen.
Oblate officials have acknowledged that they knew Dejaeger was about to flee. For 16 years, he lived quietly in homes maintained by the order despite an international warrant for his arrest.
Eventually, journalists revealed that Dejaeger was living illegally in Belgium. He was returned in 2011.
The Crown has asked for a 25-year sentence, which would be reduced to 17 years once credit for time already served is subtracted.
Dejaeger’s lawyer says 12 years, of which no more than four would be spent behind bars, would be more in keeping with previous judgments. The defence says Dejaeger is being treated for cancer, has heart problems and fears dying in prison.
Kilpatrick is expected to release a written decision by mid-February.
Dejaeger is also expected to appear in court in Edmonton on Friday on another four sex-related counts.
Bishop ‘did not know’ of sex abuse claims
Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent
Fri, Jan 05, 2007
From the link: http://www.alliancesupport.org/news/archives/001624.html
Bishop of Killaloe Dr Willie Walsh has said he was not made aware in 1995 of any child sexual abuse incidents involving a priest of the diocese who last month received a three-year suspended sentence on pleading guilty to six counts of such abuse.
During the Circuit Court hearing in Waterford on December 20th last, prosecuting counsel Michael Delaney BL said it seemed the priest, Fr Con Desmond, had gone to his superiors in 1995 and confessed the assaults to “relieve his conscience”.
The court heard how he had thought he was under the seal of confession. However, he was told that if allegations surrounding sexual abuse emerged, he would be reported.
A former De La Salle brother, Fr Desmond (71) was principal of the De La Salle national school on Waterford’s Stephen Street when he assaulted a boy there between January 1st, 1982, and June 24th, 1983.
In 1984 Fr Desmond went to Maynooth to become a priest. He served in Killaloe diocese as parish priest of Kilmaley before moving to Knockerra. In December 2002 he was arrested on abuse charges.
Speaking to The Irish Times last night, Dr Walsh confirmed that in 1995 Fr Desmond had come to him expressing concern about the climate at the time where priests and clerical child sex abuse was concerned.
As confidentiality was the norm in conversations between a bishop and his priests, Dr Walsh said he felt he should advise Fr Desmond that should he speak of incidents of abuse, either involving himself or cases he had heard of, then he [Dr Walsh] could not regard that as confidential and should report it to relevant civil authorities.
That “ended the conversation”, Dr Walsh recalled last night.
However, he remained “bothered about it” and advised Fr Desmond to see a psychiatrist at the Granada Institute in Dublin, which treats both victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse. Fr Desmond did so and the psychiatrist later told Dr Walsh the priest was not a risk to children.
Dr Walsh recalled last night there had been no complaint against Fr Desmond at the time and no report of any complaint, and he was further reassured by the psychiatrist’s observations. “I felt, in natural justice, he should be left in his position.”
Fr Desmond remained in ministry until his removal in December 2002 following his arrest on the Waterford assault charges. “I can definitely say I had no information whatsoever [concerning Fr Desmond’s abuse] before or after his ordination until I received the complaints from the garda?,” Dr Walsh said last night.
“I suppose, in the light of further developments, if it came to light now, I probably would have acted differently.”
At pains not to appear to be making excuses, he recalled that when the 1995 conversation with Fr Desmond took place, he had been bishop for six months, had “very little experience”, and that there were neither civil or church guidelines in place on the handling of child sex abuse allegations. But then, as now, he has “always regarded the safety of children as paramount,” he said.
Bishop Walsh defends handling of abuse case
Thursday 04 January 2007 22.39
From the link: http://www.rte.ie/news/2007/0104/84238-desmondc/
The Bishop of Killaloe, Willie Walsh, has defended his handling of a case involving one of his priests who has been convicted of sexual abuse offences.
Bishop Walsh has told RTÉ News that he would not claim to have never made any mistake in his dealings with child sexual abuse issues – but that in one particular, controversial case, the Bishop of Killaloe said he had done nothing wrong.
But the support group, One in Four, has said this evening’s revelations by RTÉ raise real concerns that Bishop Walsh needs to address.
Last month Con Desmond, a priest attached to the Diocese of Killaloe in Clare, was given a three-year suspended sentence after he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a ten-year-old boy a number of times in the early 1980s.
The offences occurred when he was Principal of the De La Salle boys’ primary school on Stephen Street in Waterford city.
Brother Desmond went on to become a priest and in 1990 was sent to the parish of Kilmaley in Clare.
The complaints against Fr Desmond by his victim in Waterford were not made until 2002.
Bishop Walsh told gardaí that in 1995, Fr Desmond came to him and told him that he felt under pressure due to the continued publicity in the media regarding child sexual abuse matters.
He said he was worried about something that had happened a few years back while he was teaching as a De La Salle brother.
Bishop Walsh said he told Fr Desmond that if he said anything in relation to sexual abuse, he would not be able to treat the matter as confidential.
Bishop Walsh told gardaí in Clonmel in 2003 that he insisted Fr Desmond see a psychiatrist, who carried out an assessment and reported verbally to him that he was satisfied Fr Desmond did not constitute any danger to children.
Bishop Walsh went on to tell gardaí that ‘in his initial conversation with Fr Desmond, he did not divulge anything or any information in regard to sexual abuse of children other than saying he felt under stress in regard to media publicity in this area, and that in the light of the positive psychiatric report and the fact that he had no complaint against him, he did not remove Fr Desmond from ministry’.
Bishop Walsh promoted Fr Desmond in 2001, making him parish priest in Killimer.
A year later, the Waterford man made his complaints and Fr Desmond was suspended from clerical duties.
In a statement to RTÉ this evening, Bishop Walsh said he had no knowledge that Fr Desmond had abused any child prior to, or after, his becoming a priest in the diocese until he was informed by the gardaí that a complaint had been made in October 2002.
Immediately on hearing of the complaint, he asked Fr Desmond to stand aside from his public ministry pending an investigation.
Bishop Walsh also stated he was satisfied that his handling of the case was correct.