Saskatoon

'Stop protecting the perpetrators': Sask. survivors push Catholic Church to release names of abusers

Catholic Church officials in Saskatchewan should disclose the names of all priests who sexually abused children over the years, say survivors and some of the health and legal experts who work with them.

Warning: This story contains details that some readers may find disturbing

Joey Basaraba is one of those calling for Saskatchewan Catholic officials to release the names of priests who abused children. Basaraba says he was abused repeatedly by a pair of Prince Albert priests. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Joey Basaraba fights the urge to grab the rifle from his truck's back seat as he passes a church in Prince Albert, Sask.

His hands shake as he circles the block.

He wants his nightmares, pain and loneliness to stop. Should he kill one of the priests who began raping him at age six? Should he kill himself?

Tears stream down the 25-year-old's face. He thinks of his promising career as a pitcher. He doesn't want to give that up.

He drives home and sits awake all night before finally crying himself to sleep.

That was 30 years ago. Basaraba worked with a friend to write down these and other stories of his life.

Joey Basaraba, now 55, says he was abused repeatedly by two priests in Prince Albert, Sask., starting at age 6. (Submitted by Joey Basaraba)

He no longer drives past that church and is taking counselling and other life skills classes.

They've helped a bit, but he says he wants one thing above all else: justice.

Roman Catholic Church officials in Saskatchewan need to "come clean" and release their internal records — to publicly name all the priests who abused children over the decades, he said.

They also need to expose anyone who knew about it and did nothing.

"When I think of them getting away with it, it's just sick. I hate that."

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Lists of abusers

Officials in the Roman Catholic dioceses of Prince Albert and Saskatoon say they're compiling internal records of abuse cases going back decades. The reviews are expected to be complete in the spring.

Neither diocese has committed to publicizing the names of abusers, or even the total number of them.

Many dioceses in the U.S. have offered or been forced to release lists of priests convicted in court, as well as those who have been discovered in secret church investigations.

So far, Vancouver is the first and only diocese in Canada to release such information. It found 36 cases involving credibly accused priests, but named only a few of them. An official said privacy laws prevented more disclosure, but they're working on alternatives.

It will help people to see they weren't alone.- Faye Davis, Saskatoon Sexual Assault and Information Centre

 

In an interview earlier this month, Regina Archbishop Don Bolen promised to release a list of priests found to have abused children, based on the reviews underway — but only if that's what victims want.

He said the victims he works with don't want it released, so, for now, he won't.

CBC News has interviewed more than a dozen survivors in Saskatchewan, as well as therapists, lawyers, police and other experts. Nearly all agreed with Basaraba: there can be no healing, no forgiveness, without truth.

"Giving the names of predators is important. The truth about prevalence is important," said Faye Davis, executive director of the Saskatoon Sexual Assault and Information Centre.

"It will help people to see they weren't alone. They'll stop saying, 'It was my fault' or 'No one's going to believe me.' When it's public, it helps others come forward."

Disclosure could also protect other kids from abuse, survivors and experts said. CBC News has learned of an internal church investigation that recently concluded a Saskatchewan priest sexually abused a girl.

The abuse occurred decades ago. Police have not been called. The law does not require the church to report these cases if the victim is no longer a minor.

Joey Basaraba says he's had a difficult life since being abused by two priests in Prince Albert, Sask. as a boy. Now 55 years old, he says some of his best memories were the years he spent as one of Canada's top fastball pitchers. (submitted by Joey Basaraba)

Joey Basaraba grew up in a small house in Prince Albert, with eight siblings, his parents and several other relatives.

He was small and often bullied at school. He remembers the pride on his mother's face when a priest asked if he wanted a job cleaning the church.

Basaraba's older brother had suddenly stopped going to church, and would fly into rages whenever it was mentioned in their home. His brother never talked about it, and drank himself to death a few years ago, he said.

I was terrified. He was a priest, just like God- Joey Basaraba

Basaraba, just six years old, arrived at the church early one morning. He thought it was odd the priest told him to use the back door.

He did some cleaning before the priest took him to the basement and told him to wait in a dark room. He remembers touching the cold, cement wall.

A few minutes later, the priest returned and sat in silence for several minutes beside Basaraba. He took Basaraba's hand and caressed it. The priest then placed Basaraba's hand on his groin.

"I was terrified. He was a priest, just like God," Basaraba said.

When he left, the priest gave him a $5 bill.

The sexual abuse escalated, and continued for years. And it wasn't just one priest. Two of them would take turns – sometimes on the same day, he said.

Basaraba failed Grade 1 twice. He never learned to read or write before dropping out of elementary school.

He's had some moments of triumph, too.

Tim Ryan was sexually abused by Rev. Hodgson Marshall in 1959 at St. Paul's High School in Saskatoon. He and others want the church to release the names of all priests who abused children over the years, as well as any documents naming those who knew but did nothing. (Jason Warick/CBC)

He pitched five back-to-back games at the 1994 All-Native Canadian Fastball Championship, striking out a total of 87 batters. Even though his team lost in the final, Basaraba was named most valuable player.

"We never thought we were going to come this far. We've got nothing to be ashamed of," he told the assembled reporters.

Court battle

Today, his tiny Saskatoon basement suite is cluttered with family photos, trophies and weathered newspaper clippings. He said he clings to these happy reminders. Overall, however, Basaraba's life has been a constant struggle marked by unemployment and failed relationships.

"I've got that bad angry in me. I cry in the shower. I cry when I try to sleep. I think about suicide. I can't even read and write because of this. It's tough in my shoes," he said.

Basaraba sued the Prince Albert Diocese a few years ago, and the case is still before the courts.

In its statement of defence, the diocese doesn't deny the abuse occurred. Instead, it says the lawsuit should be rejected because Basaraba took too long to come forward, calling it an "inordinate and excessive delay."

The statement also says only the priests, who are deceased, bear any responsibility, not the diocese.

Basaraba said money is not his top priority; he just wants the truth to come out. He's hoping the diocese will agree to publicly reveal what it knows about his case and any others.

'They took everything from us'

Fellow survivor Eugene Arcand, a former student of Catholic-run residential schools in Duck Lake and Lebret, says the concealment of abusers' names is part of a consistent pattern of disrespect.

"They took everything from us. Now they won't even do this?" said Arcand, former head of a national survivors group.

"I don't take this lightly. I don't say this to destroy people. I say this to expose the truth. I don't want to hurt these old bastards. But, on the other hand, they destroyed lives. They destroyed communities."

Eugene Arcand says the church's failure to disclose names of priests who abused children is another shameful example of disrespect for survivors. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC News)

Other survivors gave a similar assessment. Gary Mulligan, Tim Ryan and others were victimized in the 1960s by serial abuser Rev. William Hodgson Marshall in Saskatoon.

Mulligan and Ryan were too scared to tell anyone at the time — not their parents, not even each other. That changed several years ago when they saw reports of Marshall's criminal charges in Ontario.

Both men, now in their 60s, say public lists would help others come forward and heal, just as the publicity about Marshall did for them. 

"The more it's exposed, the more people like me will try to get help," Mulligan said.

"If it prevents one more asshole from doing it to one more boy or girl, it's worth it," Ryan said.

Catholic priest William Hodgson Marshall was convicted of abusing boys across Ontario and in Saskatoon. (CBC)

Survivor and former chief of the Keeseekoose First Nation Ted Quewezance said apologies are meaningless without disclosure.

"They just continue living in denial ... They did this to us. We were children. Their names have to be made public. Stop protecting the perpetrators. It's not healthy."

Change

Dioceses across the U.S., from Boston to San Diego, have volunteered or been forced to publish lists of abusers in the past several months as survivors groups, state district attorneys and others apply growing pressure.

The lists include priests convicted in court or found liable in lawsuits. Some also include the names of those who were credibly accused, meaning they either confessed privately to church officials or were found guilty through a secret church investigation.

The Archdiocese of New York published bar graphs with its list, illustrating the time periods and locations where abuse rates were highest.

Pope Francis has made changes that could lead to more disclosures from the Catholic Church. (Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Pope Francis announced the abolition of the "pontifical secrecy" rule around priest sex abuse cases. Senior Vatican official and Archbishop of Malta Charles Scicluna called the move an "epochal decision that removes obstacles and impediments."

The next day, the Canadian branch of the Jesuit order promised to release the names of all of its credibly accused priests.

Regina Archbishop Don Bolen uses words like "deeply complicit" and "coverup" to describe the church's record on child sex abuse. He speaks about the issue in parishes across the region and penned a public apology this Easter speaking directly to victims.

Bolen has launched several efforts at reconciliation with Indigenous leaders over the years. But he noted individual religious orders, not the diocese where the abuse occurred, would keep residential school records.

Bolen said he has looked to victims to decide if the list of abusers should be published. He agreed lists can have value, by showing victims they aren't alone.

But he said he's discussed the issue in detail with the 12 victims who have agreed to work with him. He said the consensus is that the church should focus on other things.

"We're trying to do everything we can, really guided by victims, to speak to victims, to speak to other victims who've never come forward, to bring as much transparency and accountability and healing as we can, always putting the voice of victims first."

Pamela Walsh, left, who was sexually abused by a priest, has left the church but agreed to serve as head of a victims committee with the Archdiocese of Regina. She and Archbishop Don Bolen host special masses throughout the region. (Jason Warick/CBC)

One of those victims is Pamela Walsh, head of the Regina Diocese's victims committee.

Walsh was abused by a Regina priest decades ago. Like Joey Basaraba, it took her years to come forward.

She didn't go to police. Instead, she went to church officials in 2005. They rejected and harassed her, she said. She decided to try again when Bolen became archbishop a few years ago.

Walsh said Bolen is listening and making real changes. Although she no longer wants to be a church member, she travels with Bolen throughout the diocese, speaking to parishes and with any interested survivors.

"This doesn't have to be an adversarial process. Victims don't always want to sue or go to the police. They just want peace and healing, which is all I ever wanted," Walsh said.

She doesn't think naming perpetrators should be the priority. She fears it may even trigger victims and do more harm than good.

Her abuse claim was recently declared true following an investigation by an internal church body, she said.

Neither she nor church officials have gone to police. She said she's choosing not to name the priest.

Bolen said the church complies with the law and reports any abuse allegations if the accuser is still a minor. For allegations involving victims who are now adults, the priest is immediately removed from service until the matter can be investigated internally.

He said it would be irresponsible to "proceed indiscriminately" without consulting further with victims.

'I tried to let it go'

Bolen said he'd consider releasing the overall number of abusers, rather than names, at some point in the future.

That's not good enough for Basaraba, Arcand, Mulligan, Ryan, Quewezance and others. They agree some painful memories will surface if the list is published, but the truth is the best way to heal.

Basaraba is begging those in charge to reconsider. He said the anger will fester as long as the church chooses secrecy over truth.

"I tried to let it go," he said. "But I can't. Not yet."


If you're experiencing suicidal thoughts or having a mental health crisis, help is available.

For an emergency or crisis situation, call 911.

You can also contact the Saskatchewan suicide prevention line toll-free, 24/7 by calling 1-833-456-4566, texting 45645, or chatting online.

You can contact the Regina mobile crisis services suicide line at 306-525-5333 or Saskatoon mobile crisis line at 306-933-6200.

You can also text CONNECT to 686868 and get immediate support from a crisis responder through the Crisis Text Line, powered by Kids Help Phone.

Kids Help Phone can also be reached at 1-800-668-6868, or you can access live chat counselling at www.kidshelpphone.ca.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Warick

Reporter

Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.

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