Nova Scotia

Vatican sex abuse summit felt like another violation, says N.S. survivor

The summit held recently Rome did little to heal past wounds, says survivor Rob Bowden.

'It's like, when are they going to stop? When are they going to stop breaking us?'

Rob Bowden was sexually abused by a priest in Louisdale, N.S., in the 1970s. (CBC)

The Vatican sex abuse summit was a disappointment for one survivor in Cape Breton.

Rob Bowden was sexually abused for three years by a priest in Louisdale in the 1970s, beginning when he was eight years old.

He said the four-day summit held last week in Rome, in which Pope Francis vowed to end the coverups of abuse and prioritize victims, did little to heal past wounds.

"I just felt like I was getting violated all over again," said Bowden. "It's like, when are they going to stop? When are they going to stop breaking us?"

'I believed everything'

Bowden said he grew up in a very devout Catholic family. As a young child, he enjoyed going to church and listening to the teachings of his first parish priest.

"I believed all that stuff," said Bowden. "I believed everything. It was magic, it was beautiful. And then he left."

Bowden said the arrival of their next priest, James Mombourquette, changed everything. 

"He was there a couple of years," said Bowden. "While he was there, he did a lot of damage. Not just to me, to a lot of other boys, too."

In 1992, Mombourquette pleaded guilty to four charges of indecent assault related to the sex abuse of four boys. He was sentenced to 24 months in prison. 

Bowden never filed charges against Mombourquette. He kept the abuse a secret until he was 30 years old, using cocaine to help cope.

Though he has long been clean, Bowden said he still has trouble sleeping and there are days he can't leave his house. 

'The whole world was watching'

Bowden said he feels the Vatican squandered its chance to create real healing and understanding by deflecting blame instead of taking responsibility during the summit.

Other critics have said Francis failed to address the breadth of the sex abuse crisis.

"It would have been so easy for them to make this right. The whole world was watching," said Bowden.

Following the summit, Francis issued eight guidelines of conduct to ensure abuse within the church doesn't continue.

But Bowden said the lack of responsibility brings back all his feelings of betrayal. 

"I wanted to hear, 'We are responsible, this is what we did, we destroyed documents, this is what we did wrong. We are very, very sorry and are contrite and hang our heads in shame.'"

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