Full cost of Catholic church's sins in eastern Newfoundland to be revealed within days

The Archdiocese of St. John's filed for insolvency in 2021, following a court decision that found it responsible for the abuse at Mount Cashel.  (Submitted by Dale Brow - image credit)
The Archdiocese of St. John's filed for insolvency in 2021, following a court decision that found it responsible for the abuse at Mount Cashel. (Submitted by Dale Brow - image credit)

It's a bill that's been decades in the making, but the Archdiocese of St. John's is days away from learning the full cost of decades of abuse by priests and Christian Brothers under the church's nose.

The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador heard Friday morning that lawyers had come to an agreement and that claim determinations will be delivered to the third-party insolvency monitor on Saturday.

What does that mean?

The 367 people who came forward with allegations of abuse will soon know the amounts they'll be paid.

"It was a massive problem in the community, and this is the reckoning of it," said Geoff Budden, a lawyer representing more than 200 of those men and women.

Budden says he believes money will begin flowing to survivors by the end of the summer. It's not the first time he's made a prediction on when payments could begin, but with the agreement announced Friday, he's more sure than before.

"We needed certainty. Our clients needed certainty, and coming out of today we have certainty."

St. John's lawyer Geoff Budden represents well over 100 abuse survivors in the ongoing compensation battle against the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John's, which is the business arm of the St. John's archdiocese. The deadline for survivors to file a so-called proof of claim is Sept. 30.
St. John's lawyer Geoff Budden represents well over 100 abuse survivors in the ongoing compensation battle against the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John's, which is the business arm of the St. John's archdiocese. The deadline for survivors to file a so-called proof of claim is Sept. 30.

St. John's lawyer Geoff Budden represents more than 200 abuse survivors in the ongoing compensation battle against the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John's, which is the business arm of the Archdiocese of St. John's. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

It's unlikely the church will be in a position to pay the entirety of the claims upfront. The church's bill was estimated to be $50 million when there were about 100 claimants. As the deadline for submissions drew nearer, more claims began flooding in. Budden said they were still hearing from abuse survivors down to the final hour.

The church has raised more than $40 million so far through selling off its assets on the Avalon Peninsula, including a $13-million deal for the province to buy former Catholic school properties.

There are also insurance policies in place that could pay a significant portion of the money, and Budden says the provincial government may have to kick in more for claimants who were wards of the state or in cases where abuse was related to the provincial education system.

Not just Mount Cashel survivors

The impetus for the case was an appeals court decision regarding the Christian Brothers abuse at Mount Cashel, but it grew to include people who were abused by priests who hadn't already brought forward claims against the church.

All those claims were then assessed by an independent third party, which had the unenviable task of assigning a dollar amount to the pain and suffering of survivors.

The abuse dates as far back as the 1940s, and the earliest claims were filed in 1999. The archdiocese was found liable for the abuse at Mount Cashel in 2021 and filed for insolvency later that year.

In 2023, a related legal matter, in which families of those who had died along the way insisted they should still be compensated for pain and suffering, broke away from the main case, .

At that point, five of the claimants had died. Since then, four more. The families are still waiting for the province's court of appeal to settle their fight for full compensation.

While the archdiocese has yet to come up with the full amount to be paid to survivors, its lawyer said it will soon close on several other properties and more are still in the works.

"I'm optimistic that everybody will receive 100 cents on the dollar," Budden said.

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