Archbishop Christian Lepine is seen in his office Wednesday, March 27, 2019 in Montreal. The Diocese of Montreal has assigned an independent committee to examine more than five decades of files related to allegations of sexual abuse committed on children by the clergy or church personnel in Montreal-area parishes. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Quebec Catholic dioceses commission external audit into allegations of sexual abuse

Five Quebec Catholic dioceses have commissioned a retired judge to scour through their archives to assess the number and the nature of “well-founded allegations” of sexual abuse of minors made against Catholic clergy and lay staff employed by the church over the last seven decades.

The Archdiocese of the Catholic Church of Montreal said in a statement Wednesday that the dioceses of Joliette, Montreal, Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Saint-Jérôme and Valleyfield have asked former Superior Court of Quebec judge Anne-Marie Trahan to do an external audit of their archives dating back to 1950.

Archbishop Christian Lépine approached Trahan “in order to shed light on past practices and inspired by similar initiatives undertaken elsewhere in the world,” the statement said.

After having finalized details of her mandate in March, Trahan will begin the audit in September 2019, which is expected to take up to two years.

Trahan accepted the mandate after being assured that she would have full access to all pertinent files for the nearly 70-year period, the statement said.

“We all wish to prioritize transparency and to get to the bottom of things in the search for truth,” Archbishop Lépine said in a statement.

Worshippers take part in a mass for Saint Brother Andre at Olympic Stadium Saturday, October 30, 2010 in Montreal. Brother Andre, who founded St. Joseph’s Oratory became a Saint two weeks ago. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Trahan’s final report will be made public. It will present an aggregate statistical overview of sexual abuse allegations involving minors that occurred in the five dioceses combined, while respecting the requirements under Quebec’s privacy laws, the statement said.

The Archdiocese of Montreal is the second largest Catholic diocese in Canada. According to the 2011 National Household Survey conducted by Statistics Canada, there are about 2.3 million Roman Catholics in the Greater Montreal Area, however the vast majority of them are non-practicing Catholics.

Religious attendance in Quebec, once a bastion of Catholicism, has been in steep decline since the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, when the Catholic Church lost much of its power over education, health care and social services.

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