Q & A

By Jennifer O'Brien
London Free Press [Canada]
August 7, 2006

The Free Press sat down with Bishop Ronald Fabbro after yesterday's apology for a followup interview. Highlights:

QI interviewed you when you first were appointed bishop and was asked by the diocese not to bring up the issue of sexual abuse. Today, you made a sincere and outspoken apology. What changed between then and now?

This case is unique in that the number of victims who are now coming forward over such a lengthy period of time. I thought it was important to take this opportunity to make a strong commitment that I, as a bishop, and us, as a diocese, do our utmost to make sure that it not happen again.

QYour apology was unusually specific and pointed.Why did you feel it was important to make such a direct apology today?

The Crown attorney (Paul Bailey) and the psychologist for the court proceedings, Peter Jaffe, asked to meet with me. They had met with all of the victims and received the impact of the abuse on their lives. It was really heartbreaking. I felt, one message coming through from the victims was that as terrible that this was in their lives, they wanted some good to come out of this. I wanted to apologize to them for the failure of the church to protect them, to pledge to them that I would be dedicating myself to ensure that this would not happen again in our diocese.

Q How do you propose to do that?

Over the years, these victims came forward and weren't believed. If our church is going to eliminate sexual abuse, we have to create a different environment where victims can come forward with complaints and accusations.

Second, the revisions we are making as a diocese to our sexual abuse policy. Also, the Canadian bishops are reviewing their sexual abuse document called From Pain to Hope . . .

Father (John) Sharp is going to be in charge of that here. He was a parish priest, but for the first time I've freed him up of parish duties. He will be entrusted with overseeing this review of our response to sexual abuse.

QWhat do you think your peers -- other bishops in other dioceses -- are thinking about this apology?

I notified them, but I haven't gotten any response back. I think there would be agreement that this would be the direction that all the bishops in Canada would be taking.

QYou are talking about ways to deal with it when it does happen, but how can you prevent it?

There is strict screening in seminaries, in place since the 1970s, but now we have professionals do the psychological screening of seminarians before they enter into the seminary. Also, we are providing screening of their psychosexual maturity . . .

QTell me about your petition to have Father Sylvestre defrocked. Why is that important?

(The late) Pope John Paul II has introduced a very specific route you would take in this regard. It has happened in the U.S. and I think an important part of this would be the guilty pleas.

QHave you talked to Father Sylvestre?

On Friday.

Q Tell me about the conversation.

It was a very personal conversation I had as his bishop, and I don't think it would be appropriate to discuss any details about it.

Q Do you forgive him?

That would be a personal thing for him, I wouldn't want to talk about my own conversation with him.

QWhat is your initial, personal reaction when you hear of a case of sexual abuse involving a Catholic priest?

It is particularly discouraging because of the betrayal of trust (by someone) who has an effect on a young person. It is extremely devastating, more so because of the religious dimension.


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