Accused priest has been a victim of the media: lawyer

A publication ban should be imposed at the Cornwall public inquiry to prevent the further victimization of a Cornwall-area priest accused of sexually abusing nine boys, the priest's lawyers argue.

A publication ban should be imposed at a public inquiry in Cornwall to prevent the further victimization of a priest accused of sexually abusing nine boys, the priest's lawyers say.

The public inquiry is examining the way authorities handled dozens of allegations of sexual abuse against prominent members of the community around Cornwall, Ont., spanning several decades.

James Foord, a lawyer for 73-year-old Rev. Charles MacDonald, told the inquiry Wednesday that MacDonald has for 14 years been a victim himself— a victim of the media.

"This commission should not unnecessarily facilitate any further victimization," Foord said.

MacDonald's lawyers are askingJustice Normand Glaude, the commissioner for the inquiry,to ban MacDonald's name, anything that might identify him and any allegations of criminal wrongdoing from being aired at the public inquiry.

They note that the priest was neverconvicted, even though hefaced 19 charges involving nine alleged victims, who said they were abused in the 1960s and 1970s.

The charges were laid after news broke in 1994 that the Catholic church had paid a former altar boy $32,000 to keep quiet about his allegations of abuse against MacDonald.

However, ajudge ruled in 2002 that MacDonald's trial had been delayed too long to proceed.

In an affidavit filed with the inquiry, MacDonald described the damage done by media coverage over the years.

"I was ordered to leave the parish and cease all activities as a priest," he wrote. "My career was essentially over."

"I have made over 50 court appearances and have been branded through massive publicity as a pedophile and a member of a 'clan of pedophiles.' "

Giuseppe Cipriano, another lawyer representing MacDonald, wrote in his application that MacDonald will not have any ability to respond to allegations broadcast from the inquiry via a live webcast and available through public transcripts.

The Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese and some other partiessupport MacDonald's application for a publication ban.

But Peter Wardle, a lawyer for the local community group Citizens for Community Renewal, argues the inquirycannot properly fulfill its mandate if the ban is approved.

"The people of this community expect this proceeding to take place in public," said Wardle, whose group aims to promote healing from the abuse within the community.

"It would be an affront to the proper administration of justice in the context of this inquiry to clothe a central figure in anonymity."

The commissioner will rule on the ban on Friday.

With files from the Canadian Press