Canada's Jesuits to name priests accused of sexual abuse

Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) was the co-founder of the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits (AFP Photo/NORBERTO DUARTE)

Ottawa (AFP) - Canada's Jesuits, after sifting through personnel files dating back to 1950, will publish a list of priests credibly accused of sexual misconduct, the Catholic order announced Tuesday.

"It is the right thing for us to do," and for victims of abuse it is "important to healing," said Erik Oland, the head of the Jesuits of Canada.

The move is in response to growing calls from victims for more transparency and accountability from the church about abuse cases, and will also help to prevent future acts of abuse, he said.

The list of names, as well as when and where the accused clergy worked, is expected to be published by January 2021, after private investigators King International Advisory Group complete a review of the personnel records and other archival documents.

The decision follows a wave of disclosures in the United States since a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania said in a 2018 report it had found that priests had abused more than 1,000 children.

But while the US lists were comprised of individual clergy who were convicted of abuse in a criminal court or forced to pay compensation in a civil action, the Canadian Jesuits will go further.

Their list will include cases "where it appears more likely than not that an offence occurred," even if no criminal charges or civil actions were ever forthcoming, and priests who died before accusations were made or resolved, said the statement.

It may also include "plausible hearsay evidence" that would not be included in court proceedings.

The church explained that many complainants of child sexual abuse may not have come forward years back.

"It is a tragic consequence of the esteem that clergy were held in, that victims did not come forward because of fear that they would not be believed, or that there would be reprisals," it said.

So far, 90 percent of complaints made against Jesuits in Canada involved the actions of two people: Reverend George Epoch and Brother Norman Hinton.

The pair were named in lawsuits alleging historic sexual abuses against minors in Ontario and Nova Scotia provinces.

Since 2000, the Jesuits have received 20 new abuse complaints, according to the church.