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September 2, 1922: Charles Henri Sylvestre is born in St. Joachim, Ontario. He is baptized by his uncle, a priest, the very next day.
1936 – 1944: After finishing primary school in St. Joachim, Sylvestre attends Sacred Heart College in Sudbury, Ontario. He graduates in 1944 with a Bachelor of Arts.
1944 – 1948: Sylvestre studies philosophy and theology at St. Peter's Seminary in London, Ontario.
1948 – 1953: Sylvestre's first posting: associate pastor at St. Alphonsus Parish in Windsor, Ontario.
1953 – 1954: Sylvestre goes to Hamilton to help start up the French-speaking parish of St. Charles Garnier.
1954 – 1956: Sylvestre abuses four girls while the associate pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Windsor. He also assists at Sacred Heart Parish in LaSalle, a suburb of Windsor.
1957 – 1958: Sylvestre serves as bursar at King's College, London. He abuses two girls while also the chaplain at Mount St. Joseph's girls' school.
1958 – 1962: Sylvestre abuses seven girls while the pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas in Sarnia.
1962: Sarnia police launch an investigation after the sister and cousin of one victim report the abuse. When one of the investigators goes to St. Thomas Aquinas to question Sylvestre, he's told that Sylvestre's been sent to Montreal. The case is dropped.
1962 – 1963: Sylvestre goes to Holy Cross Fathers in Montreal as a kind of "retreat." Diocesan records show him to have been on a "leave of absence." In February 2007, the diocese reports that Sylvestre also moved to Toronto during this year to attend St. Michael's College, but dropped out after one semester.
February 17, 1964: G. Emmett Carter becomes the Bishop of London. He oversees the diocese until 1978, when is named the Archbishop of Toronto. In 1979, Pope John Paul II makes him a Cardinal.
1968 – 1980: Sylvestre abuses 29 women while the pastor at St. Ursula's Parish in Chatham, Ontario.
May 17, 1973: Sylvestre celebrates the 25th anniversary of his ordination. Bishop Emmett Carter writes him a letter and praises his "generosity" and "self-sacrifice." (.pdf file)
May 1974: Father Barry Glendinning pleads guilty to six counts of gross indecency against children. He is given a suspended sentence and three years' probation.
1989: The Diocese of London implements a Sexual Abuse Policy. The policy states that all diocesan priests must report all instances of sexual impropriety to the diocese's Sexual Abuse Committee, and that "members of the priesthood are not to exercise any discretion in fulfilling this reporting obligation." The policy also recommends a variety of options for responding to allegations of sexual abuse.
February 10, 1989: On the subject of the new policy, Bishop John Sherlock tells a Toronto newspaper that his diocese has not received complaints of sexual abuse of children by clergy. He says the Sexual Abuse Committee was set up in preparation for any such complaints. He says he wants the diocese "to be as forthright and open as possible."
June, 1989: Sylvestre becomes the chaplain at Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor.
August 30, 1989: The head of the Sexual Abuse Committee, Father Richard Tremblay,
meets with Pain Court officials to discuss allegations of sexual abuse
Read Father Tremblay's notes.
October 10, 1989: Sylvestre checks in to an alcohol treatment facility in Michigan called Guest House after Bishop John Sherlock tells him he needs "help." He stays for three months. He checks out on January 10, 1990. In 2007, the diocese acknowledges he was treated for both alcoholism and psycho-sexual problems.
See the Affidavit relating to his stay. (.pdf file)
October 20, 1989: Fr. Tremblay meets with one of Sylvestre's victims.
Read Father Tremblay's notes.
June, 1992: The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) Ad Hoc Committee on Child Sexual Abuse publishes From Pain to Hope. It is a 96-page booklet that addresses the issue of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, outlines the Committee's mandate and presents 50 recommendations directed to bishops, those responsible for clergy and seminarians, Catholics and the CCCB itself.
The CCCB calls From Pain to Hope "the first systematic study, and thus a landmark, by a Conference of Bishops in the Catholic Church for the prevention of sexual abuse, the care of victims and the administrative procedure to be used in cases of sexual abuse by clergy."
December 14 – 18, 1992: Sylvestre completes a five-day evaluation at the Southdown Institute in Aurora, Ontario, a treatment facility for clergy and religious members. Southdown documents show he was "referred because of allegations of sexual assault." He undergoes a psychiatric evaluation, and health and psychological testing.
See the Affidavit relating to his evaluation. (.pdf file)
February, 1993: Father Robert Morrissey is sentenced to 18 months' probation on charges of attempted buggery, indecent assault and assault. He appeals in March 1995, but the appeal is dismissed.
April 16, 1993: Bishop Sherlock defends Fr. Morrissey in a diocesan newsletter.
According to newspaper reports, Sherlock says he believes Morrissey and
has been a misunderstanding."
His defense of Morrissey sparks outrage by advocates of victims' rights. Sherlock later apologizes.
August 13, 1993: Sylvestre retires from active ministry. In a letter, Bishop Sherlock thanks Sylvestre for his "many years of devoted service."
1994: The Diocese of London reviews its policy in the light of From Pain to Hope. It decides that "no revisions were necessary" and leaves the policy as is.
January, 1994: Father Michael Francis White pleads guilty to one count of indecent assault against a young girl. He is given 18 months' probation.
March 31, 1998: Sylvestre celebrates 50 years as a priest. Bishop
John Sherlock sends him a letter acknowledging his "years of devoted service
to the Church" and
thanks him "for the great good" he accomplished in his career.
January, 1999: In a second conviction for sex crimes, Father John Stock pleads guilty to gross indecency against a young boy. He is sentenced to 12 months in jail.
October 16, 2000: Diocese settles lawsuit with Deschenes
and Morrison for $100,000 each, denying any wrongdoing.
February, 2001: Father Cameron MacLean is sentenced to two years less a day after pleading guilty to indecent assault and sexual assault of young boys.
June, 2001: Father Thomas Cromien pleads guilty to indecent assault of a teenage boy. He is sentenced to two years less a day.
November, 2001: Father Richard Boll is sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to gross indecency, indecent assault and sexual assault against boys. At the time of his arrest, Boll was the Bishop's advisor on canon law.
2002: The diocese completes and files a full screening program, including police checks for all persons who minister in it.
March 29, 2002: Bishop Sherlock responds to the recent spate of priests' convictions. In a letter to all priests and parishioners, he begs "pardon of all who have suffered abuse." He also says that "the priests and bishops guilty of these crimes need our prayers as well since no one, however sinful, is excluded from the saving power of Christ."
April, 2002: Bishop Sherlock retires. In August, Ronald Fabbro is
ordained as the Bishop of the Diocese of London.
March, 2003: In a second conviction for sex crimes, Father John Harper is given three years' probation after he pleads guilty to indecent assault.
October 28-31, 2003: The CCCB announces it has created a special task force to review From Pain to Hope. The task force has 11 members who will consult with experts, victims and perpetrators and focus on "safe environments for pastoral work, with emphasis on the protection of children; transparency and accountability." They are to prepare a final report by the end of 2004.
2004: The Diocese of London updates its Sexual Abuse Policy.
July 22, 2005: In a press release, the diocese acknowledges the charges against Sylvestre and says it "deplores all acts of sexual abuse and sexual impropriety, especially by clergy."
September 22, 2005: The Special Task force presents
its review of From Pain to Hope to the CCCB annual meeting in Cornwall. The review recommends
adopt rigorous measures for protecting children, banning from public
ministry any member of the clergy or pastoral staff convicted of sexual
assault, adopting diocesan mechanisms to counter sexual abuse, and implementing
procedures to evaluate the diocesan management of sexual abuse cases."
The document is sent to all bishops, who are invited to offer comments and amendments that will be reviewed by the CCCB's Permanent Council in November.
November 2005 – May 2006: Police continue to lay charges against
Sylvestre as more victims come forward.
July 4, 2006: Father Konstanty ‘Konnie' Przybylski is sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual assault and sexual exploitation of two teenage boys.
August 3, 2006: Father Charles Sylvestre pleads guilty to 47 counts of indecent assault. He is sentenced in October to three years in prison.
August 6, 2006: Bishop Ronald Fabbro apologizes to victims
of Fr. Sylvestre in a sermon at St. Ursula's Church in Chatham. He also
apologizes "for the failure of the Church to protect
the victims and their families from Father Sylvestre." Read the sermon
Diocese of London
He vows to end abuse of minors in the London diocese, which he says has been "a scourge."
See a CBC.ca news story about the apology.
September, 2006: Bishop Fabbro attends meetings at the Vatican, where he discusses beginning the process of having Fr. Sylvestre dismissed from the priesthood.
October 6, 2006: Sylvestre is sentenced to three years in a federal penitentiary.
October 20, 2006: The CCCB Plenary Assembly refers the "question of sexual abuse" to its Permanent Council, which is set to meet in November. Bishops review a report on the revised From Pain to Hope. The document is "waiting to be approved" by bishops at their next meeting
December 14, 2006: The bishop's house goes on the market. Diocesan officials say that "proceeds from the sale of the property will be used to pay for sexual abuse claims."
December 20, 2006: The diocese announces that it found
copies of three police witness statements (.pdf
file) from 1962 in October. The documents contain transcribed interviews
with three girls who told police how Sylvestre had touched them and exposed
himself while a priest in Sarnia, and prove that somebody in the diocese
had early knowledge of Sylvestre's pedophilic tendencies. Diocesan officials
claim they don't know "how or when" the
documents came into their possession.
Later, Bishop Fabbro tells the fifth estate that it is "certainly a possibility that [the documents] could have been 'deliberately hidden'.
The diocese also announces that it plans to circulate its sexual abuse policy by the end of February "so that the finished policy will be promulgated by the end of March 2007."
December 21, 2006: In a letter
fifth estate (.pdf file),
Bishop John Sherlock acknowledges that "some victims of Father Sylvestre
came to [him] in 1989" but that he didn't believe them.
He also denies any knowledge of the 1962 documents that were found in October in the diocesan offices, and insists that if he had, his "reaction to the 1989 complaints would have been quite different."
January 17, 2007: The diocese hosts a workshop for all clergy and lay people at a church in Comber, Ontario. Two of Sylvestre's victims, the mother of two victims, the Crown Attorney and a psychologist address the workshop on the consequences of clergy sexual abuse. The diocese holds a second workshop in London, Ontario at the end of the month.
January 18, 2007: The diocese announces it will spend $44,000 to help victims of clergy sexual abuse. From Isolation to Action is designed "to get needed and timely information regarding prevention measures, policies, and guidelines."
January 22, 2007: Sylvestre dies of natural causes in the hospital at the Kingston Penitentiary
February, 2007: The diocese publishes Sylvestre's
employment history on its website. This "understanding of facts" contradicts diocesan documents
made public in previous lawsuits against Sylvestre and adds new details
never before mentioned by the diocese in previous lawsuits or by Sylvestre
in interviews with lawyers and police.
A lawyer for the diocese says the information on the website "is subject to change as more information is received from victims and others."