Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon Most Rev. Bishop Mark A. Hagemoen says the historical case review process done by the Historical Case Review and Policy and Operations Review are necessary steps in order to learn from the past mistakes in handling allegations of misconduct and sexual abuse cases.
The issue of Catholic-run residential schools, where thousands of Indigenous children were forced to attend, was not included in the historical review since the Diocese did not operate any of the said facilities in Saskatoon and within its boundaries.
“The key goal of our plan was that our Diocese and our churches be places of profound respect and safety for all peoples — especially the young and the vulnerable,” said Hagemoen in a letter released Wednesday to all parishes under the Diocese.
“We wished to determine how our current policies and practices can be improved, particularly in our commitment to support those who come forward with allegations of abuse and serious misconduct. This work is extremely important and valued. Although, we have come a long way in our efforts, there is much more to do.”
Hagemoen added that his heart is grieving in what could be the Catholic Church’s greatest disappointment and sin — the violation and victimization by any member of the church, particularly by clergy members, of the young and vulnerable.
“[As] leaders and pastors of the faithful, whose priority is to embody by their lives the truth and way of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, this is a tragedy. We must bring all of this to light and find our way forward by finding the same mind, heart, and way as Christ Jesus.
Both committees reviewed nine cases, which was not in any order and are not listed chronologically or alphabetically, where seven priests and two laypersons (either employees or volunteers in the Diocese) have allegedly committed “serious misconduct or sexual abuse” and the process also finding 10 victims in the said cases. The cases go back as far as 1959.
Bob Loran chaired the HCRC that had a number of laypersons (non-clergy) professionals whose background and expertise range from legal and police investigation while Brenda Fitzgerald headed the PORC, which reviewed the Diocese’s policies and the Safeguarding Action Plan already in place.
Fitzgerald said it is her committee’s desire to get rid of the evils of sexual abuse.
“We have wrestled extensively with striking an appropriate balance between accountability and transparency, and sensitivity and responsibility, as every member of the [PORC] deeply desires that the evils of sexual abuse be eradicated.”
“In meeting with victims of sexual abuse, the [PORC] repeatedly found that we must always remain victim/survivor-focused for the sake of respecting that person and their individual journey. The victim-centred approach must be reflected in every update to our safeguarding plan — and any operation of the Diocese.”
Hagemoen also advised Catholics who lost their faith in the Church due to the sexual abuses and issues on residential schools, that the Church is both a divine and human institution that needs personal and institutional conversion.
“Every person has a center, as we say in theology. The institution needs to be aware of where we failed, where do we need to grow, and ask God’s forgiveness and healing so that we can follow Christ more authentically.”
“I think in the case of the residential school’s legacy, the church was a part of something that now it’s saying we should not have been. There’s lot of messaging on that and why. That’s a good example of institutional conversion. We need to come together to become people of healing and reconciliation, not of division or inappropriate anger. Anger is legitimate. But if just left too long, it can take us to a bad place. The way of peace, unity, and wholeness got to start in the personal way in which people find and love Christ in a real practical way.”