Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 28, 2002
Exner rails against anti-Catholic bias
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
Archbishop Adam Exner lashed out at the media, courts and general public at the Canadian bishops assembly Oct. 21 claiming the "indifference" they previously had towards the Catholic Church has turned to hostility, especially in British Columbia.
"Believe me, the only time they (the media) want to talk to us is when there's a scandal, otherwise they don't care," said the archbishop of Vancouver. "There is a bias against the Catholic Church and that bias is fed by the myth that we are rich and therefore we should pay."
Exner's remarks came as he briefed his fellow bishops about a recent court case involving Vancouver College and St. Thomas More Collegiate, administered by the Christian Brothers of Ireland in Canada on behalf of the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
"It boils down to a case of having to buy back the schools that we built and paid for in the first place and are now having to pay $19 million," he said.
The archbishop said the problem started when "the veil of secrecy blew off Mount Cashel orphanage and the victims got into line for compensation." The Newfoundland orphanage, owned by the Christian Brothers of Ireland, was shut down in 1990 following an investigation and inquiry that led to the convictions of 11 Christian brothers for sexually abusing young boys in their care.
The scandal rocked the Catholic Church in Canada.
The Newfoundland government paid $11 million in compensation to more than 40 victims in a 1996 settlement but dozens more alleged victims launched individual suits against the government.
Pressured by the provincial government to pay compensation to the abuse victims, the Christian Brothers in effect said, "take everything we've got," said Exner. A law firm in Toronto was appointed as liquidator and was mandated to sell off the assets of the order, which included the two Vancouver schools, valued at $31.5 million.
"This is going to cost us $19 million," said Exner. "It's breaking our back financially but it's the best solution we can get because if we were to lose those two schools it would mean that 1,700 students would have nowhere to go."
The archbishop said he has no argument with the Mount Cashel claimants. "My problem is that in order to rectify one injustice another injustice has been created," he said.
Exner said Vatican officials advised him to go to the media with the problem but that he told them the media aren't on the Church's side. The experience, he said, has led him to believe that "there is a very, very profound prejudice against the Catholic Church in the judicial system, in the general public and in the media."