A Cape Breton man says the settlement between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish and people who were sexually abused by priests has given him a new chance at life.

Rob Bowden has never talked publicly about the abuse before, but he said he's speaking out now in light of the controversy about Bishop Raymond Lahey, the man who negotiated a $15-million class action settlement for victims of sexual abuse by priests.

Lahey pleaded guilty May 4 to a charge of possession of child pornography for the purposes of importation to Canada. He was remanded into custody until his sentencing scheduled for May 26.

Bowden grew up in the Acadian village of Louisdale in the 1970s in a devout Catholic family.

"I couldn't wait to be an altar boy because we all knew how important it was," he said. "It's what we wanted."

That changed when James Mombourquette arrived in Louisdale as parish priest and began sexually abusing Bowden when he was eight years old.

"I remember the first time it happened. I remember the night, the evening, like it was yesterday," Bowden said. "I remember walking home, and I've never been the same since."

He said that for many years he kept what had happened a secret, and tried to cope by drinking, doing drugs and abusing friendships.

"I don't know how I lived through it because, you know, to be honest, most of the time I didn't care if I did or not," Bowden said.

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Bishop Raymond Lahey arrives at an Ottawa courthouse earlier this month. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

A couple of years ago, he found out on the internet about the class action suit against the diocese. He said that five minutes on the phone with the lawyer convinced him to sign on .

"I never felt like somebody would stand up and fight for me," Bowden said.

The apology from the diocese and the acknowledgement of what happened to him has changed his life, he said.

But Bowden is worried that the focus on Lahey is diverting attention from what this settlement means.

"It will stand the test of time — guaranteed — because it is right and fair and decent," he said.  

Bowden said that for the first time he has a steady job, a stable relationship and is considering going back to church.