London

Lawyer doesn't buy why London Diocese kept names of 4 priests secret

A London lawyer says he has 'a hard time stomaching' why the local diocese would keep the names of four priests facing sexual abuse allegations against minors a secret.

London Bishop claims survivors don't want priests named and fear revictimization

Rob Talach is a lawyer based in London, Ont. He's taken the Catholic Church to court over 400 times for sex-related abuses and has been dubbed the name "priest hunter." (CBC)

A London lawyer says he has "a hard time stomaching" why the local diocese would keep the names of four priests facing sexual abuse allegations against minors a secret. 

"The vast majority want the name of their perpetrator out there. They want to protect society. They want accountability," said Rob Talach, who has represented more 1,000 survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy in more than 400 court battles against the Catholic Church.

Talach's comments came on Friday, the same day London Bishop Ronald Fabbro appeared on CBC Radio One's London Morning.

Fabbro told host Rebecca Zandbergen that the list of 36 clergy members accused of sexual abuse published Wednesday by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) was "substantially correct." 

The Bishop also noted there were four other priests facing allegations of sexual abuse against minors whose names didn't appear on the list because, he claimed, the alleged victims didn't want them named. 

"The survivors that have spoken to me have indicated that they would not want the name of the priest who abused them to be on the list," Fabbro said. "Some feel they might be re-victimized."

Talach said doesn't buy the Bishop's explanation. 

"Coincidentally, all the victims of all four of these priests don't want their priests' names to be out there? I have a hard time stomaching that," he said.

"It's a bit of a shell game to say 'well we can't name the priest because that may name the victim.' Most of these priests operated in a half a dozen or more parishes over their careers. Saying who the priest is, isn't going to narrow it down to one sole individual. That's absurd."

Talach said the fact the names were kept secret also raises questions about who the four men of the cloth are, what's been done about them, and where they are now.

Positive reaction from survivors

Talach told CBC News the survivors he has represented have had nothing but positive reaction to the publication of the list since Wednesday. 

"I think it's a really good step that SNAP has forced on the London Diocese," he said. "The only downside and disappointment is that this wasn't an innovative step taken by the diocese itself."

He hopes it'll also have a positive impact on survivors who haven't spoken about their experiences.

"Those suffering in silence, those who haven't come out, who haven't told anybody, who haven't sought help. It's sort of a bat light to them. Like, 'oh my goodness I'm going to be believed, I'm not alone, maybe this is a signal for me to take my leap and start healing.'"

Talach is also calling on the church to take a look at how it operates.

"I always go to this issue of 'why do we still have an all-male celibate, allegedly celibate priesthood?' That's something the church is going to have to take on, and take a good look at."