Two more bishops named in class action against Quebec Archdiocese

By Francois Gloutnay, Catholic News Service

MONTREAL (CNS) — Two more bishops, including one still serving, have been named in a new list of offenders filed in the class action against the Quebec Archdiocese.

Bishop Jean-Pierre Blais of Baie-Comeau, Quebec, and the late Bishop Clément Fecteau, who served as bishop of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, were named in an 11-page victims’ list recently made public by the Arsenault Dufresne Wee law firm. Both were ordained bishops in the Quebec Archdiocese before being transferred.

Bishop Blais’ alleged offenses are described as touching and masturbation and that occurred between 1973 and 1975 at the Charny rectory, when the victim was 12 years old, reported the Montreal-based Presence info.

On Dec. 2, Bishop Blais formally denied any inappropriate conduct toward the victim. He said he would collaborate with the legal proceedings but would not give any interviews or provide comments.

Quebec provincial flags are displayed outside a building across the street from the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec in Quebec City Oct. 5, 2017. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

“Having been made aware of the allegations concerning me in the class action against the Archdiocese of Quebec, and which would have occurred between 1973 and 1975 in Charny, I would like to formally deny having made any inappropriate gesture on the presumed victim,” he stated.

When allegations of abuse are made against a priest, he is automatically removed from ministry while an investigation is conducted. In the case of a bishop, as stated in Pope Francis’ 2019 motu proprio “Vos estis lux mundi,” it is the responsibility of an archbishop to inform Vatican authorities as soon as the allegations are known. In this case, Archbishop Denis Grondin of Rimouski would be responsible for the process.

Archbishop Grondin would not comment to Presence info messages about his course of action.

In July 2021, the Baie-Comeau Diocese adopted a protocol for dealing with allegations of clerical sex abuse of a minor. The 22-page document stipulates the procedures to implement based on Canon Law, and it states that “clergy” includes deacons, priests and bishops.

Bishop Blais’ statement does not mention if the diocesan protocol was followed nor if the Vatican was informed of the allegations. He did not specify if he asked Pope Francis to suspend his duties during the class action litigation or out of court settlement.

Christine Desbiens, Baie-Comeau diocesan spokeswoman, responded “no comment” to questions from Presence info. However, in comments to the Journal de Québec, she expressed the possibility of the bishop’s duties being suspended.

Bishop Blais was ordained a priest in 1974. He ministered in parishes, a few years in schools and also headed the Office of Faith Education of Quebec for eight years, according to his biography on the Baie-Comeau diocesan website. In January 1995, he was ordained as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Quebec and was installed as bishop of Baie-Comeau in 2009.

The alleged offenses against Bishop Fecteau included touching and exhibitionism and took place in 1987 in a locker room at the Quebec seminary, as well as in the woods, when the victim was 13.

Clément Fecteau was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Quebec in 1957, and he was appointed as auxiliary bishop in 1989. In May 1996, he became the fourth bishop of the diocese of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière. He resigned in 2008 and died in 2017.

Jean-François Morin, diocesan spokesman, said, “No one saw this coming, it’s a very big surprise.” He added that Bishop Fecteau was remembered by all his collaborators as someone who was very much loved and appreciated.

Morin noted that the alleged incident took place before Bishop Fecteau’s appointment in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière. “Nevertheless, we are affected and concerned by this,” he said.

Staffers in the Archdiocese of Quebec learned of the updated list Dec. 1 and said they would not comment on the allegations against the two bishops.

“The leaders and members of the Catholic Church of Quebec firmly condemn any conduct that violates human dignity. We reiterate our commitment to preventing actions that injure the moral, spiritual and physical integrity of our brothers and sisters,” said Valérie Roberge-Dion, archdiocesan director of communications.

The two bishops’ names were added to those of Cardinal Marc Ouellet and the late Auxiliary Bishop Jean-Paul Labrie, who were accused this summer. A preliminary investigation into allegations against Cardinal Ouellet concluded there was not sufficient evidence to warrant opening formal proceedings against the cardinal for sexual assault, a Vatican spokesman said.

Author: Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ news and information service.

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