Letter from Bishop Marie
October 20, 2020
Bishop Ronald P. Fabbro, CSB
Diocese of London,
1070 Waterloo St.
London ON N6A 3Y2
Dear Bishop Fabbro,
The clergy sexual abuse of Irene Deschenes by Fr. Sylvestre first came to my attention over twenty years ago when I was doing research for my M.A. in Theology. The topic of my thesis was the sexual abuse of women by clergy. What has been shocking in all the cases I documented is that bishops failed to follow the Gospel imperative to hear the cry of the oppressed. Instead they followed the papal injunction to protect the clerical institution at the expense of the victims. They obeyed men, albeit their superiors, and not God.
Clearly, concerns about legal and monetary issues have become more important than concern for clergy sexual abuse survivors, and the advice of civil lawyers has trumped Gospel values.
So I am writing to ask you, as the Bishop of London, to drop the appeal and expedite a just mediated settlement with Irene Deschenes. Wouldn’t it be more truly Christian to meet face to face with Irene, as her pastor, hear her side of the story, help her find healing? Why not “leave the other 99 and seek the one lost sheep”, where she lives, on her terms, as she requests? Wouldn’t that set an example of authentic compassion and repentance, even if you are asking forgiveness on behalf of someone else who never did?
The People of God are asking all these questions. Pope Francis has answered us, on several occasions now. It is the ugly sin of clericalism, the belief that ordained men are spiritually and morally superior, and do not have to be accountable to the very people they are called to serve
It is a scandal for the faithful of all Canada that a diocese should appeal a case to the highest court in the land. What do the faithful of the Diocese of London stand to gain? It is certainly not the assurance that justice has been served or even that Canon Law has been respected. It would be good to apprise your legal counsel of Canon 1446 (“All the Christian faithful, and especially bishops, are to strive diligently to avoid litigation among the people of God as much as possible, without prejudice to justice, and to resolve litigation peacefully as soon as possible.”).
I hope you will find it in your bishop’s heart to expedite a mediated settlement and end this long ordeal. Please give Irene Deschenes the means to finally find healing.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Marie Evans Bouclin, Bishop Emerita
Roman Catholic Women Priests of Canada