Priest Pleads Guilty to Scores of Sex Abuse Charges

The Star Phoenix [Canada]
August 4, 2006

CHATHAM, Ont. (CNS) -- A retired Roman Catholic priest, who lives near Windsor, Ont., has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing 47 girls over a span of 34 years during his service in parishes in southern Ontario.

It is potentially the largest clergy sexual abuse case involving female victims in North America, a lawyer representing some of the victims said Thursday.

Many of the victims, now all women, were in a packed Chatham courtroom Thursday morning when Charles Henry Sylvestre, 83, entered his guilty pleas to 47 charges of indecent assault.

Several observers in the courtroom, including family members of the victims, wept as the court clerk read out the charges and Sylvestre responded in a calm, quiet voice.

The women ranged in age from nine to 14 years old at the time the assaults took place in parishes in Windsor, Chatham, Pain Court, Sarnia and London between 1952 and 1986.

Following Sylvestre's pleas, Crown attorney Paul Bailey began reading the details of each case into the court record. Later, many of the victims were expected to make statements to the court about how the abuse affected them.

Bishop Ronald Fabbro, of the London diocese, responded immediately to Sylvestre's guilty pleas with a written statement of apology Thursday.

"I sincerely apologize to the victims and their families for the abuse that they endured at the hands of Father Sylvestre, and for suffering the consequences of that abuse over the years."


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