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369 people come forward with abuse claims against Archdiocese of St. John's in bankruptcy case

Archbishop Peter Hundt says more than 350 people have come forward with claims against the Archdiocese of St. John's and its corporate entity, the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John's.  (Ted Dillon/CBC - image credit)
Archbishop Peter Hundt says more than 350 people have come forward with claims against the Archdiocese of St. John's and its corporate entity, the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John's. (Ted Dillon/CBC - image credit)

The final tally is in — 369 people have come forward claiming they were abused physically or sexually by people under the watch of the Archdiocese of St. John's, including the Christian Brothers at Mount Cashel.

Archbishop Peter Hundt delivered the message to parishioners during Roman Catholic masses on Sunday, saying each of those claims are now being evaluated by an independent claims officer to "provide both a determination of liability and a value for each claim."

It's the latest update in the archdiocese's insolvency proceedings, which began when the organization filed for creditor protection on Dec. 22, 2021.

"It's a high number, but there was a horrific amount of abuse in the Archdiocese of St. John's," said Geoff Budden, lead lawyer for a group of plaintiffs who were abused by Christian Brothers and other clerics with the church, told CBC News on Monday. "It was a high number but I can't say for me personally it was a shocking, or even unanticipated number."

Budden said people were calling in their proof of claims right up until the deadline on Sept. 30. He said many had similar stories, even though their experiences took place decades apart. He said they had concerns about what happened, how it happened, and that it could happen again if steps weren't taken to hold the church accountable.

St. John's lawyer Geoff Budden represents well over 100 abuse survivors in the ongoing compensation battle against the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John's, which is the business arm of the St. John's archdiocese. The deadline for survivors to file a so-called proof of claim is Sept. 30.
St. John's lawyer Geoff Budden represents well over 100 abuse survivors in the ongoing compensation battle against the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John's, which is the business arm of the St. John's archdiocese. The deadline for survivors to file a so-called proof of claim is Sept. 30.

St. John's lawyer Geoff Budden represents abuse survivors in the ongoing compensation battle against the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John's. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Hundt said the claims officer's decision should come by April.

"I know that the ongoing legal proceedings and the sale of church properties have been a great source of hurt and pain for the communities, parishes, and individuals of this archdiocese," he said.

"I am very grateful to all the clergy and parishioners who have provided support and assistance to each other and to the broader Catholic community during this difficult time of change and restructuring."

Many of the claimants are expected to be survivors of the Mount Cashel Orphanage, a St. John's institution that, for decades, served as a safe haven for child abusers and a house of horrors for the kids that lived there.

The archdiocese's decision to file for creditor protection came on the heels of an appeal court decision that held the church responsible for actions of the Christian Brothers that ran the orphanage. Allegations of abuse at Mount Cashel span from the late 1940s to the 1980s.

The group also includes people who have been abused by priests and have not previously sought damages in civil court.

The claims officer, consulting firm EY, will determine how much compensation is paid to each claimant, and claimants will have the option of appealing to the province's highest court if they aren't satisfied.

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