Quebec City man accuses Cardinal Lacroix of turning blind eye to sexual abuse

A Quebec City man is suing the Pius X Secular Institute for nearly $370,000, alleging it failed to protect him from abuse by his uncle, a lay member. André Lachance claims Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix was aware of the alleged abuse but did nothing, which Lacroix categorically denies.

André Lachance suing Pius X Secular Institute, claiming lay member abused him for most of his childhood

The alleged victim says he was sexually assaulted in the Pius X Secular Institute’s Sarto House in the Quebec City suburb of Charlesbourg. (Gaétan Bergeron/Radio-Canada)

A Quebec City man is suing a Catholic community, the Pius X Secular Institute, for nearly $370,000, alleging it failed to protect him from an alleged pedophile.

The suit also contends that Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, a leading figure in the institute — now the archbishop of Quebec and Catholic Primate of Canada — was aware of the alleged abuse but did nothing.

André Lachance, 48, alleges he was sexually assaulted about 80 times on the institute's grounds by his uncle, Jean-Paul Lachance, who was a lay member of the religious community.

The elder Lachance killed himself in 2014.

"The Pius X Secular Institute lost a member that they knew and that they loved," Lacroix told CBC about Jean-Paul Lachance's death. "A man who did a lot of good all his life, and who was a missionary, who worked with the dying and the poor." 

Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix has categorically denied the allegations against him. (CBC)

According to court documents, the alleged sexual abuse began in 1971, when André Lachance was three.

The court documents say that in 1976, André Lachance's parents asked Lacroix, who had joined the institute the previous year, about the alleged abuse.

Twice, Lacroix asked him  to forgive his uncle, André Lachance alleges.

The court documents contend that six years later, by which time Lacroix had become the institute's secretary general, Lacroix once again asked André Lachance to forgive his uncle because Jean-Paul Lachance "had made a big effort to change his ways."

André Lachance said his brother and cousin were also sexually assaulted by his uncle. The alleged abuse stopped when he put an end to it at the age of 16.

Lifetime of consequences, alleged victim says

André Lachance says the years of repeated alleged assaults led to recurrent nightmares and academic difficulties during his childhood.

As an adult, he was found guilty of sexual touching involving a 10-year-old boy, an act he links to the trauma he says he experienced in his childhood.

He says he has sought out treatment to help address what he calls inappropriate sexual behaviour toward children, as well as alcoholism and mood disorders.

The court filing says André Lachance holds the institute responsible for his uncle's actions.

"[The institute] destroyed a part of his life, his soul and disturbed him by refusing to denounce the repeated actions, keeping quiet and being willfully blind," it reads.

'Never turned blind eye,' says Cardinal Lacroix

In a written statement, the Pius X Secular Institute said it was recently made aware of the allegations and that it has a zero tolerance policy against all forms of abuse.

Lacroix has categorically denied the allegations against him.

"I never turned a blind eye to an allegation of abuse brought to my attention," Lacroix said in a statement.

He told CBC on Wednesday evening he would not comment on this particular case, because it is before the courts.

"I will say this," he said. "All through my life, never, never have I asked or invited someone to hide or not talk about an alleged abuse. Never."

Lacroix, who was named a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2014, also said he had only recently arrived at the Pius X Secular Institute in 1976, when André Lachance alleges Lacroix asked him to "forgive" the alleged abuser.

Pope Francis has taken steps to root out sexual abuse within the Catholic church, in late December releasing a letter promising to ensure that "these atrocities" would no longer take place.

Lacroix said he's confident the justice system will shed light on the alleged facts.

André Lachance's court documents were filed in Quebec Superior Court last Friday. His allegations have not been tested in court.

The institute has 15 days to file a response.

With files from Catou MacKinnon and Radio-Canada's Marie Maude Pontbriand