Church in Canada opens probe of child sexual abuse by clergy

A former Quebec superior court judge will assess "the number and the nature" of allegations of sexual abuse of children against clergy members going back to 1950 (AFP Photo/ANNE LEVASSEUR)

Montreal (AFP) - The Catholic Church in Quebec has commissioned a former judge to investigate possible sexual abuse of children by clergy in the Canadian province over seven decades, the archdiocese of Montreal said Wednesday.

Former Quebec superior court judge Anne-Marie Trajan will assess "the number and the nature" of such allegations against clergy members going back to 1950, the archdiocese said in a statement.

It said the investigation was "inspired" by similar probes of clergy sexual abuse elsewhere in the world, which have uncovered hundreds of previously unacknowledged cases.

"We all wish to prioritize transparency and to get to the bottom of things in the search for truth," Montreal Archbishop Christian Lepine said.

Trajan has been assured access to all pertinent church archives and the results of the investigation will be published.

The investigation will focus solely on "individuals working in diocesan parishes, services and institutions," the archdiocese said.

Trajan is expected to begin in September and take 18 months to two years to complete the probe.

"The report to be made public will present an aggregate statistical overview of sexual abuse allegations involving minors that occurred in the five dioceses combined, while respecting the requirements under Quebec's privacy laws."

The clergy pedophile scandal has reached to the very top of the church, with disgraced Australian Cardinal George Pell recently sentenced to six years in prison for the sexual abuse of two choirboys.