Montreal abuse commission co-chair resigns
Pepita G. Capriolo says serious problems with the application of “rules, policies and procedures” remain.
The retired judge, who was co-chair of the Archdiocese of Montreal’s committee to implement abuse procedures, has resigned, saying serious problems remain in the application of “Archbishop-approved regulations, policies and procedures.”
“I entered my mandate as co-chair with genuine enthusiasm and the hope that I would be able to make important changes that would make the Montreal Catholic Church a model of transparency and accountability to victims of abuse,” Pepita wrote G. Capriolo her letter of resignation dated December 7, published as an attachment to the report of the fifth Ombudsman for the Archdiocese of Montreal. The Ombudsman’s report was presented to the Archbishop of Montreal, Christian Lépine, on the same day.
She said “the numerous difficulties highlighted in the Ombudsman’s recent reports” led to her resignation.
Two years ago, Capriolo signed an incriminating report on the handling of Father Brian Boucher’s case by authorities in the Archdiocese of Montreal and even Vatican officials. Their report made 31 recommendations to improve process management and accountability for abuse complaints. Capriolo served as co-chair of the Implementation Committee until her resignation.
Among other things, she deplored the “inexcusable delay” before the recent dismissal of an episcopal vicar, since “the Archbishop and the two vicars general had been alerted almost three months earlier to grave errors and a breach of confidentiality.” She said she was “outraged at the improper treatment” of an archdiocese worker who works closely with the ombudsman.
“I cannot continue to participate on a body that faces conflicting pressures that may come from individuals and bodies who are not privy to our discussions and do not seem to share the same vision of an open, transparent church addressing this.” welfare of the most vulnerable people,” she said.
In a phone interview with Montreal-based Presence info, Capriolo confirmed that her decision was a recent one.
“The main reason for my resignation is that I didn’t want to appear to condone what was being done. As long as I thought I could play a positive role and that my advice was working, I stayed. I fought,” she said.
She recently noticed “pressure on the archbishop,” she said. She said people have encouraged him to “do nothing”, to “slow down” the pace of change, “not to do things as clearly, transparently and strongly” as he intends.
She said it took six months for the executive committee to draft “procedures and protocols for handling sexual abuse complaints in the Archdiocese and for training all pastoral staff.” All of this had been agreed upon by the archbishop in these decrees and documents, “including a policy of punishing those who disregard what is planned”. However, “these sanctions will not be applied.”
In all this, Capriolo emphasized the loneliness of Archbishop Lépine. “He is very alone up there. There is an impenetrable wall between the believers and him.”
She said people would stop her on the street, write her letters and comments to “thank her for what we do. They tell me it gives devout Catholics hope to see someone who wants change.”
“I think if the Archbishop could see through that impenetrable wall and listen to the people, he would see that they were supporting him,” she said.
She explained the pressure as “reemerging clericalism and fear of transparency”. Some church people say to her, “You have to understand, it’s a cultural change.” She said she recognizes that such a change is necessary – but will not accept “the slowness and dysfunctions”.
Despite her resignation, Capriolo remains optimistic. “If the archbishop is able to do what he wants, he will succeed. And I’ll tell you why: because he has the support of the people, the believers. And if he needs me, I will always be ready to help him. But I can no longer approve of the current system.”
Archbishop Lépine did not comment orally on the judge’s resignation. However, in the press release accompanying the Ombudsman’s fifth report, Archbishop Lépine said: “Capriolo’s contribution has been invaluable, first in preparing this comprehensive report and subsequently in implementing the recommendations contained therein. Significant steps have already been taken to raise awareness and provide a training and mobilization program for staff and volunteers working at the Montreal Catholic Church to eliminate any abusive situations.
“We resolutely continue these efforts,” he said.