On October 30, Montreal’s Olympic Stadium hosted a celebratory mass in honour of André Bessette, the eleventh Canadian saint. Known as Brother André, he was the porter for St. Joseph’s Oratory and member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, and died in 1937. Pope Benedict XVI declared Brother André a saint in Vatican City on October 17.
The celebration of Brother André’s canonization has been dampened by a storm of legal action by victims of alleged sexual abuse perpetrated by brothers from Collège Notre-Dame, a formerly all-boys school that is owned by the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
According to Robert Cornellier, a founder of the Committee of Pedophile Victims at Collège Notre-Dame, fifty men have come forward with their stories of abuse at the College. Cornellier’s late brother René was a victim of abuse.
Last week Cornellier sent a letter to Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, who presided over the ceremony, asking him for a portion of the money generated by Saturday’s mass to be given to the victims of abuse at Collège Notre-Dame. Cornellier said that he did not receive any response; instead he said he received a letter asking him to stop speaking to media.
Cornellier identified the Committee’s intention of “investigating” Cardinal Turcotte’s claims that Saturday’s events honouring Brother André did not turn a profit. Of the 50,000 people projected to attend the event, the final attendance was 30,000, with tickets five dollars each.
“We don’t want to hurt the college…but we want to denounce our abusers,” said Cornellier, conveying the general message of the men he has spoken with.
Cornellier explained the will of his late father, asking for an apology and a refund of tuition money for René’s schooling at Notre Dame, as reparation for his son’s sexual abuse. Cornellier mentioned his family’s initial desire to not go public with their case, but after the treatment they received from the Congregation in response to their request, they decided to “push the story forward.”
“[Their] only reply is to send their lawyers, the most expensive and biggest [lawyers] in Montreal. … [That is the] way they reply to victims, [the] way the Church in Quebec replies to victims of cases of sex assault,” Cornellier said.
St. Joseph’s Oratory had not responded to a request for comment when The Daily when to press.