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.