The diocese of Bathurst in New Brunswick has asked the Vatican to defrock a priest who recently pleaded guilty to 22 sex-related offences involving boys. The move would restrict retired priest Levi Noel to being a lay person within the church.
Noel, 84, was sentenced last Friday to eight years in prison for gross indecency and indecent assault. The offences occurred between 1958 and 1981 while Noel was a priest on the Acadian Peninsula in northeastern N.B.
Speaking on behalf of the diocese, Father Wesley Wade apologized to Noel’s victims.
“It's very sad that these situations happen, and we are very sorry and we apologize again to all the victims and their families,” he told CBC News.
“It's very sad when we see people of authority, especially in the church, people who are supposed to be men of God, abuse children.”
Noel, who had worked as a priest for 30 years before retiring a decade ago, pleaded guilty to 18 charges last October. The 18 victims were aged between eight and 16 at the time of the abuse.
Last week, Noel pleaded guilty to four additional charges after four more victims came forward.
Several victims were abused on a weekly basis for years, and all of them suffered psychologically as a result, said Judge Donald LeBlanc during the sentencing.
Some of the victims, who may file a lawsuit against the diocese, held a news conference after the sentencing to urge other victims to come forward. They are calling on the diocese of Bathurst to make more efforts to prevent abuse and provide psychological counselling to victims.
Wade told CBC News that all dioceses across Canada and throughout the Western world have committees in place to help focus on what can be done “to avoid these situations.”
“So that's what we do in our diocese. We have been doing that for 10 to 15 years with a committee—to be in a situation of security for our children on all church premises.”
Crown prosecutor Pierre Gionet told reporters that he believes Noel’s sentence is the longest a priest has ever received in Canada for sex abuse crimes.