Tuesday, March 13, 2007

We should think about the victim first

As one who watched the Mount Cashel scandal unfold, from a front row seat at The Sunday Express, I was a little disappointed by some of the reaction last week to sexual assault charges against Father Wayne Dohey.

A Roman Catholic priest in Placentia, Dohey was charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual exploitation, for incidents that allegedly happened between 1996 and 2000. Dohey has been placed on administrative duties until the case has been tried.

Parishioner Ian Walsh of Placentia was interviewed by CBC News. He was “surprised, shocked” to learn of the charges, but did not approve of the decision to suspend Dohey, expressing concern that it might drive parishioners away from the church.

"I sincerely hope that they leave him here,” Walsh told CBC. “He's done a lot of good. I believe it would be a negative signal to the parishioners."

Details of the Father Jim Hickey case, as well as the Mount Cashel scandal, have been seared into my memory and Walsh’s comments have an eerie echo to those terrible days.

Back then, loyal parishioners seemed to lend a deaf ear to the many people who complained of sexual or other abuse. Instead, they stood behind the priests or brothers, saying they were “good men” and had done so much for the community.

I know that Father Dohey is innocent until proven guilty, and that the crimes for which he has been charged pale in comparison to the terrible deeds of Jim Hickey. However, they are serious and, until dealt with by the courts, Dohey should not have direct contact with potential future victims. The church’s response, in arranging counseling for Dohey when it became aware of the allegations in 2001, is questionable, since “counseling” – rather than justice – is also what the Christian Brothers at Mount Cashel received during the 1970s. The church had no choice but to remove Father Dohey from active duty, once the charges were finally laid.

Rather than worry about how these charges might impact the parish, Ian Walsh should consider the impact these alleged actions had on the complainant. He might ask himself how he would feel if the complainant was his own daughter.

That, to me, is the Christian thing to do.


Anonymous said...

From someone who had the "other" front row seat during the Mount Cashel scandal..... I too was dissapointed with the parishinor's comments. At the time of Shane Earl's breaking story in the Sunday Express, I was actually reading the story on my Sunday break as a councillor while working in Mount Cashel.

After 20 years of reflection and anger it is incredulous that these comments still prevail. What's even more troubling is that I believe that the point of view echoed by Mr. Walsh, are shared by more than we think.

The RC church still maintains a blind faith and culture of fear that has indoctrinated a majority of their congregations.
A shame but true. Let's hope that these comments still come forward so that we can highlight that these sentiments are still alive and very much unacceptable

Tina Chaulk said...

Bravo! This is exactly what I was screaming at my TV when Ian Walsh was on the screen.

Anonymous said...

I agree totally with Mr. Meeker's comments, but I would carry it one step further. Hasn't the archbishop openly admitted that he knew she was a minor and choose not to report it? Isn't this a legal Child Protection violation?

Anonymous said...

The charges against father Wayne Dohey were dismissed for lack of evidence. In the pre-trial hearing the accuser was declared by the judge to be less than credible.

Who should we think about now?

Geoff Meeker said...

So what you are saying is, we should always rally around the priest - thus ostracizing the accuser -whenever there is a charge like this? That sounds to me like a recipe for another Mount Cashel.

Anonymous said...

No, what I am saying is that there must be at least some consideration for a presumption of innocence. If we take what are in effect punitive actions in response to every accusation someone makes then we could all be doomed. For example, if someone were to slur your name with accusations of plagiarism should we immediately assume there is guilt and as such call into question your further participation in the media?

I get the public protection angle in taking action in certain cases. However there has to be balance and lambasting Mr Walsh for supporting his priest while understandable in your context doesn't make it correct. In fact it appears Mr Walsh's assessment of the priest was the valid one.

Anonymous said...

I just want to say to those out there who are quick to discredit the accuser, did you ever stop to think what this young girl has to go through for the rest of her life? Do you honestly in you heart of hearts believe someone would phantom a story of this magnitude? This girl has to live with what happened to her for the rest of her life and she also has to live with the fact that it was her priest, a person who chose a vow of celibacy, chose to devote his life to proclaiming God's word. Growing up in a catholic home, I was raised to believe if you had no where else to turn you could always put your faith in the hands of your preist. If that is not a position of authority what is? And if you can't trust your priest who can you trust? A priest is given the power from God to forgive all sins, does that give him the right to commit such acts, and then think it okay to forgive himself? I think not. For those of you who do not believe what happened just because he did good for a church or community, you need to open up your eyes. Look around you, President Clinton committed an act of sexual assault, he did a lot of good for his country but he still hurt someone. Take a look at the Mount Cashel victims, do you think they wanted to admit right away when asked were they were assaulted or exploited? It takes a lot of pyschological preparation to be able to even begin to unlock the many years of abuse that a victim has kept inside. There is no doubt in my mind that father Dohey did perform well for the parishes in which he was preist, however, if he did this to one person, he can do this again. She was 14 when the alleged assault began, it could of been your daughter, granddaughter, friend or niece. Would you have been so quick to proclaim his innocence then? Father Dohey should not be judged solely for his work in a parish or community, it does not, in my opinion give him the right to be excused from his actions. What he did, and I do believe it happened, was wrong. Both morally and ethically wrong. If this was a bum on the side of the street or even just a normal guy, I bet he would of been in jail by now. Obviously the police had enough evidence to arrest him, now it's time to prosecute him. I hope the day NEVER comes for him to be in Parish again but if it does, I can assure you that myself, along with many others that I know, will not allow our children to be alone with him. My heart goes out to the accuser as I can tell your fight is far from over. I have no idea if you read what people write, but I just want you to know your story is being heard, and we are praying for justice to be served.

Anonymous said...

No one is "discrediting" the accuser, but there are two sides to every story are there not? It would appear that the Judge ruled that her recollection of facts and those of others who were supposedly present at the time, varied greatly. Those who stated that yes they remembered exactly what happened on such a such day, and where it happened must have given totally different stories.

"Do you honestly in you heart of hearts believe someone would phantom a story of this magnitude?"
YUP, sure do.....Did the "poor girl" perhaps date a married man causing the marriage (with young children)to end thus placing a financial burden upon him??? Hmmmmmm and now, just where can the money come from to pay for this???? Oh yeah, accuse that priest that was in the Catholic Parish - that should just about cover it. The RC Church has loads of money, and they should be anxious not to have this turn into a scandel. Sounds quite plausible to me. Of course there could be many other scenerios which caused her to take this course of action.

"...it was her priest"
Nope, it wasn't - he was the Catholic Parish Priest - she was/is of the Anglican faith.

"Take a look at the Mount Cashel victims, do you think they wanted to admit right away when asked were they were assaulted or exploited"
Not ALL children at Mount Cashel were abused. For a number of these children this was the only home they ever knew and will defend Mount Cashel and the Christian Brothers. Therefore it stands to reason that not everyone one encounters in such settings will be abused or are the victims of abuse.

"What he did, and I do believe it happened, was wrong".
And I just as strongely believe and that it DID NOT HAPPEN. It's unfortunate that we can't ask the boyfriend she lived with while living out West. To bad we can't ask him about HER and well.....well a number of things that were discussed in court that we, the public are not yet privy to.

"...I can assure you that myself, along with many others that I know, will not allow our children to be alone with him."
Well, that just makes you a smart parent. I wouldn't leave my child alone with anyone, not even you, though you might be a good person. This way, you will never have any reason to suspect anyone of inappropriate conduct. Not very realistic now is it?? Teachers, doctors, babysitters - how about them - they all have positions of trust. If one were to accuse them, the same process that has taken place in this case would be followed. Would it be fair to automatically believe the accuser? Would it be fair to discredit the Judge, when it is he who has heard all the facts?? from both sides??

Yes,the Police arrested him - they were instructed to do so; Yes, it was brought before the Judge - that is the legal process
Yes, they both had the opportunity to present their versions of what did or did not take place - that too is the legal process.
Yes, the Judge heard from both parties and their "witnesses" - No, we, the public did not hear it all, so therefore we are not in the position to pass judgement - that is why we have a legal system and Judges.

It's unfortunate that this has gone too far for the "girl" to retract her accusations and reconsider the damage she has done to this man's life.

Anonymous said...

"Do you honestly in you heart of hearts believe someone would phantom a story of this magnitude?"

Well, apparently the Judge who sat in hearing on the entire matter thought just that. So much so that the matter never even made it to trial. For a judge to do that he had to have been very certain there was no merit to the case.