Good Friday marked by protest in Montreal

Montrealers who turned out in support of the Catholic Church on the most solemn day of the Christian calendar on Friday were confronted by protesters demanding justice for victims of abuse at the hands of the clergy.

Montreal Archbishop seeks forgiveness for sins of the church

Montrealers showing their support for the Catholic Church on Good Friday, the most solemn day of the Christian calendar, were confronted by protesters demanding justice for victims of abuse by the clergy.

France Bédard, who says she was abused by a priest as a teenager, is demanding compensation for victims of clergy members. ((CBC))
Hundreds took part in a the traditional Good Friday walk through downtown Montreal symbolizing the stations of the cross, known in French as the Marche du Pardon, or forgiveness procession.

But standing on the steps of Notre-Dame Basilica, more than 100 protesters said the actions of the Catholic Church are unforgivable.

"They have never apologized," said Francine Bédard, president of an association of abuse victims.

The church should provide help and compensation for the victims of sexual abuse, said Bédard, who said she was sexually abused and impregnated by a priest as a teenager. She called recent statements from the Pope and Canada's top cardinal "outrageous."

Among the protesters were members of Quebec’s Duplessis Orphans, who say they were physically and psychologically abused in church-run institutions during the reign of former premier Maurice Duplessis in the 1940s and '50s.

The orphans said they hope that growing attention to the issue of sexual abuse by members of the clergy will bring attention to their own demands for compensation.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte says he is asking for forgiveness for the sins of the church. ((CBC))

In 2001, many of the orphans accepted a multi-million-dollar compensation offer from the provincial government. But others have said the compensation offer was insufficient.

Some people taking part in the Good Friday procession expressed their support for the abuse victims.

"I'm in solidarity with what Jesus went through and I'm in solidarity with how people suffer today, and for me it all comes together and I walk for that and with them," said Sr. Francine Guillemette.

But others felt the protest was inappropriate on the day Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

"God didn't do anything wrong — it was men," said one woman.

Church seeks forgiveness

Attending his annual blood donation clinic, Montreal’s archbishop, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, said that on this Good Friday he was also asking for forgiveness for the sins of the church.

"We are not proud of those scandals and we can, like Christ asks us, ask forgiveness," Turcotte said. "But, we must remember that it is only a few parts of the clergy and religious persons who did that."

During Lent, "every Catholic is invited to examine [their] own life in order to … conform to the message that Christ gives us and the message is tenderness and forgiveness."

During the Good Friday service at the Vatican, the Pope’s personal preacher compared the attacks on the Pope to the persecution of Jews. Vatican officials distanced themselves from the comments made by Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, who they said was not speaking on behalf of the Vatican.

In a statement last week, Quebec City’s archbishop, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, defended the Pope. Ouelette, who is primate of the Catholic Church in Canada, accused members of the news media of having ulterior motives for their attempts to link the Pope to cases of sexual abuse. The Pope has always shown a "zero tolerance" attitude towards sexual assaults committed by members of the clergy at each step of his career in the church, said Ouellet.

Claiming anything to the contrary would be to "profoundly misjudge this man of compassion and justice," he wrote.