N.L. Roman Catholic parishioners told Mount Cashel resolution to mean 'sacrifice'

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Roman Catholic parishes in St. John's were informed Sunday the resolution of claims by victims of abuse at the Mount Cashel orphanage will mean "changes and sacrifices" to deal with the financial fallout.

The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the archdiocese's application for leave to appeal a decision by the Newfoundland and Labrador Appeal Court on Jan. 14, meaning the church is liable for abuse committed in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

St. John's Archbishop Peter Hundt said in a letter read in parishes during Sunday services the church must now move to address the claims to the best of its ability.

He says in the letter he can't promise the road ahead will be an easy one, but he hopes the resolution process will bring healing for victims, their loved ones and the entire faith community.

The archbishop said "the resolution of the claims will have significant implications for the parishes and parishioners," in the diocese, adding in a news release he's not available for further comment.

The case first shook Newfoundland and Labrador decades ago, and the recent Supreme Court decision has determined once and for all that the church has a responsibility to the victims of the abuse that took place at the notorious former orphanage at the hands of the Christian Brothers.

The legal battle began in December 1999 and lawyers for the four lead plaintiffs estimate they've been in court 30 or 40 times to see the case through.

The victims, who were boys at the time of the abuse, are now in their 70s and 80s.

The archdiocese will now have to pay the four lead plaintiffs about $2 million, divided among them. There are dozens more survivors, and lawyers have said there's now a clear path for them to seek compensation.

The orphanage was closed in 1990 and demolished in 1992. The horrors that happened inside its walls are largely seen to have played a role in a cultural shift away from the influence of the church.

A public inquiry into the abuse, known as the Hughes inquiry, was established in 1989, after which several Brothers were prosecuted and convicted.

After a winding series of court cases, which included the North American branch of the Christian Brothers order filing for bankruptcy, the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal determined in July that the city's Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation was liable for the abuse.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2021.

The Canadian Press