Calgary bishop supports priest's defamation lawsuit

Bishop Fred Henry testified in a Calgary courtroom Tuesday in support of a priest who is suing an Indian man for defamation.

Indian girl told police she lied about the allegations

Bishop Fred Henry testified in support of a Calgary priest Tuesday. (CBC)

Bishop Fred Henry testified in a Calgary courtroom Tuesday in support of a priest who is suing an Indian man for defamation.

Father Newton Rodrigues, a parish priest at St. Bernadette’s Church in southeast Calgary, has accused a man in India of spreading allegations that he molested a 13-year-old girl.

Ten years ago, the girl who made the accusation in India recanted her statement, telling local police she had lied. The case was dropped.

The priest now alleges a personal battle has led to a lawyer overseas, named Aires Rodrigues, continuing to spread the story in internet postings and emails to Calgary school and church officials.

Newton Rodrigues is seeking $600,000 in damages. The two men share the same last name but are not related.

Bishop supports priest

Outside the courtroom on Monday, Henry, who leads the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary, said Newton Rodrigues has his full support.

"Everybody deserves justice and it’s just a question sometimes of determining who the victim is, and in this case I think the victim has been the priest," the bishop said.

"This was one of those clear-cut cases. There had to be push back. This nonsense of false allegation has to be challenged and so we decided we're going to pursue this with the full force of the law behind us."

Newton Rodrigues' lawyer, David Corry, said the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in recent years has people on edge when they hear rumours and allegations of sexual abuse.

"It becomes particularly heightened in today's society because it hasn't been well-handled in the past and people are sensitive to these types of allegations," he said.

The hearing wraps up Wednesday.