Woman sexually abused by priest urges Roman Catholic diocese to drop appeal

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Saint Vital Roman Catholic Church Beaumont Alberta Canada

An Ontario woman who was sexually abused by a priest as a child says the Roman Catholic church is turning to Canada’s top court in an effort to further delay a decades-long legal battle.

Irene Deschenes says the Diocese of London has filed for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada after Ontario’s appeal court granted her the right to sue the church a second time over the abuse.

She says that while the diocese has the right to legally defend itself, that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

Deschenes first filed a lawsuit in 1996 alleging she was sexually abused by Father Charles Sylvestre in the early 1970s, and that the diocese failed to prevent it.

She settled out of court in 2000 after the diocese maintained it didn’t know of any concerns regarding Sylvestre or his behaviour until the late 1980s.

In 2006, Sylvestre pleaded guilty to having sexually assaulted 47 girls under the age of 18, including Deschenes.

It also came to light that the diocese had received police statements in 1962 alleging the priest had assaulted three girls.

As a result, Deschenes sought to throw out the settlement and launch a new lawsuit, and a motion judge ruled in her favour.

The diocese challenged the ruling, but its appeal was unanimously dismissed by the province’s top court in May.

A spokesperson for the diocese did not immediately respond to a request for comment.