Church sex scandal deepens

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ANOTHER Jamaican claiming sexual abuse, allegedly at the hands of a local Roman Catholic priest, has come forward.

This was disclosed on the weekend to the Jamaica Observer by Denise Buchanan, the 57-year-old Jamaican who insists she was raped at the age of 17 by a then novitiate, although Archbishop of Kingston, Most Rev Kenneth Richards has said the priest in question, Father Paul Collier, said the relationship was consensual.

Buchanan is also a founding member of the international advocacy group Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA), which is on a mission to compel the Roman Catholic Church to end abuse by clerics, especially child sexual abuse. The group is now calling on the archbishop of Kingston to apologise to victims of clerical abuse after comments made in a letter to the Observer last week.

The other victim, according to Buchanan, reached out to the ECA after reading the Jamaica Observer front page story last Friday, which reported on the archbishop’s response to an Agence France Presse (AFP) article published by the newspaper, in which Buchanan said she was raped, impregnated and had to do two abortions due to her alleged abuse at the hands of Father Paul.

Buchanan, who now teaches at a university in Los Angeles and works as a psychiatric neurologist, told the Observer that the alleged victim has identified another priest as the abuser.

She said the local Catholic Church has been told of the situation and that the person was offered counselling “with no apparent investigation of the priest involved”.

“It is difficult to know how many priests are involved with clergy abuse in Jamaica, as the culture on the island is not receptive to caring for victims coming forward, as we saw in the case of Archbishop Richards’ response to my case,” Buchanan said. “And, as we have found, because most of the clergy abuse cases involve molestation of boys, boys are not quick to admit that they were sodomised.”

The psychiatric neurologist said the ECA is hoping other victims will find the strength and courage to stand up, speak out and get counselling, support and guidance as well as share their stories.

“They need to know they are not alone and there is no need to be ashamed,” she said.

In the meantime, Buchanan said, despite demanding action from the Church since meeting with the local archbishop and Father Paul in 2017, she only found out that Father Paul resigned from the priesthood from reading the Observer story last Friday.

“What is of concern to me is that Father Paul confessed and admitted to inappropriate and wrong sexual acts against me during my teenage (years) and as a young adult. This confession was done in 2017, in writing, and in the presence of the archbishop… I have not yet had the courtesy of a response from the church,” she said.

“I do not feel the church is sincere or serious about taking strong and decisive action to end sexual abuse by the clergy, and it is clear that church leadership do not have the will or strength to do anything more than issue lukewarm statements and take steps to cover up misdeeds,” she continued.

Buchanan, who insisted in a letter to the Observer on Friday that the relationship was not consensual, said Father Paul has caused her “much pain and hurt over decades” and that the action by the archbishop in his public statement has only served to “lance those wounds which cause me even more pain”.

The archbishop’s letter to the Observer saw him acknowledging that the Catholic community has been hurt by the sex scandals that have rocked the Church globally, while saying that the priest fingered by Buchanan said their relationship had been consensual.

He said Father Paul acknowledged that before his entrance into the clerical state, more than 30 years ago, he had engaged in a “consensual relationship” with Buchanan — who was not a minor — which caused her pain and brought the Church into disrepute.

Archbishop Richards said the clergyman acknowledged his wrong and apologised.

In the letter, the archbishop also said once the issue was brought to light Collier was suspended from ministry and all the required steps taken to report his conduct to the Vatican authorities.

“The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples has indicated that Paul Collier should no longer serve as a priest as his conduct has been incompatible with that office,” Archbishop Richards said.

He said, too, that the priest submitted a letter of resignation from the priesthood and asked pardon for all the hurt or scandal caused by him.

However, president of ECA, Tim Law, has also taken issue with the comments made by the archbishop last week.

In a letter to the Observer on Saturday, Law cited the archbishop’s statement that: “Side by side with disclosures of wrongdoing by clergy, come false allegations, unfounded suspicion and gossip, which can weaken effective ministry and cause irreparable personal harm”. These, Law insisted, are clearly not in the spirit of Pope Francis’s historic papal summit in Rome last month, which was held under the theme ‘Responsibility, Accountability and Transparency’.

“He is giving the message to victims, who are just starting to come forward in Jamaica, that he will likely not believe them,” Law said of Archbishop Richards’ response.

The ECA president also called for Jamaican justice officials to review all church files in the Archdiocese of Kingston to determine which reports “may have [been] dismissed as false when they may be true”.

“Obviously, Richards has displayed in his comments a dangerous bias against anyone who reports abuse of a priest. The consequence will only be to suppress reporting,” he said. “Victims need to report to law enforcement the crimes that occurred to them and find support and assistance from those who believe survivors, not those who are predisposed to not believe them.”

Law also called on Archbishop Richards to release the findings from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, “so we can see why Collier’s offence was so serious that they took the most severe disciplinary measure within their power against him”.


— See full text of letters from Denise Buchanan and Tim Law here.

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