A Catholic congregation in the Canadian province of Quebec on Thursday apologized to former students who had suffered sex abuse in their schools and offered C$18 million (US$17.3 million) in compensation.
The congregation in Sainte-Croix, not far from Quebec City, made the announcement after reading an amicable agreement with the victims — former students who attended three Catholic schools from 1950 to 2001.
At least 85 of them “suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a member of the Sainte-Croix congregation or a lay person, while they were attending one of these educational institutions,” the community said in a statement.
“I sincerely deplore these mistakes and, in the name of the congregation of Sainte-Croix, offer my apologies for the suffering and the indignity inflicted on the victims of this abuse,” provincial superior Jean-Pierre Aumont said.
“Moral wrongs occurred and we have taken steps to correct them. We hope the victims can finally emerge from their prison of silence, heal the wounds they suffered as best they can and take hold of their futures,” Aumont added.
This marked the first time a Canadian religious order had apologized for sexual abuse, said Alain Arsenault, a lawyer for the victims.
Arsenault also noted that more victims could come forward to be added to the list of complainants. Each will receive C$10,000 to C$250,000, based on the severity of the crimes committed against them.
The scandal, long covered up by the congregation’s leaders, erupted in the local media in 2008. The Roman Catholic Church is struggling to deal with rising anger and a string of lawsuits following thousands of child sexual abuse claims in Europe and the US.
Pope Benedict XVI has expressed shame and sorrow over the sex scandal and has called on bishops around the world to come up with common guidelines against pedophiles by May next year.
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