Sun. Mar 3rd, 2024

Former residents of the St-Michel Seminary in Rouyn-Noranda testify to having been victims of sexual abuse or inappropriate behavior on the part of priests and teachers in the 1960s. They asked the diocese of Rouyn-Noranda to open an investigation and present a public apology.

Former residents of St-Michel Seminary claim to have been victims of abuse

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Marc Ryan, Pierre Trépanier, Donald Nolet, Julien Rivard and Philippe Boissonneault, in front of the building of the former Séminaire St -Michel, today the Résidence St-Michel, on rue Mgr Rhéaume, in Rouyn-Noranda.

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Six former students of St-Michel Seminary in Rouyn-Noranda claim to have been victims or witnesses of abuse by certain teachers of the time, while they attended the establishment, between 1960 and 1967. They denounce especially the behavior of two priests, Father Joseph Guiho and Father Maurice Magnan, both deceased today. Two of the men say they were victims of sexual abuse.

St-Michel Seminary was a private institution attended only by male adolescents at that time. Secondary training was offered there which was then described as classical.

Initially, this institution run by the diocesan authorities was to provide initial training to young men destined for the priesthood. Boys wishing to pursue a different orientation were, however, admitted.

Julien Rivard has very bad memories of the priest Joseph Guiho, whom he describes as someone a deeply mentally disturbed person, an exalted person who promoted the devil. He points out that the priest said he was in love with him at the time.

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The former St-Michel Seminary in Rouyn, probably from the 1970s.

During the year 1965-1966, he came to see me several times at the small dormitory, late in the evening or during the night. He caressed my legs and body, which made me uncomfortable. He even wanted to lie in my bed and I pushed him away, says Mr. Rivard, adding that Father Guiho would have tried to go even further.

During a visit to the dormitory, probably his last, he asked me to accompany him to his room, which was adjacent to his office. I was naive enough to follow him. He sought to lure me into a sexual relationship using force. I had to use more force to push him away and return to the dorm. I have bad memories of his rough beard, his breath and his body odor. I was 18, says Julien Rivard.

André Gilbert says he witnessed Guiho’s love for Julien Rivard during a camping trip. The abbot was lying in a tent, conversing, his head resting on the student's chest. He said how much he loved her, he remembers. The next day he asked, ''Have you heard what was said in the tent?'' I answered yes. He then exclaimed: damn tent!

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André Gilbert and Julien Rivard, seated opposite Joseph Guiho, during the 1960s, during a group activity.< /p>

Julien Rivard is not the only one who claims to have been the victim of sexual touching at Séminaire St-Michel. Marc Ryan says he was a victim of this at the hands of Father Maurice Magnan, who was then his spiritual director.

He sat me down in front of him and the subject of masturbation came up. Kindly, he told me he wanted to check the condition of my organ and asked me to take off my pants. I pull down my pants and boxers. With both hands, he caresses my testicles for three to five seconds. Greasy sweat beaded on his broad, balding forehead and a smile betrayed his pleasure. I quickly pulled up my pants. My reaction was not one of pleasure, but of disgust, he recalls, specifying that he never filed a complaint at the time to avoid having problems.

This event does not surprise Philippe Boissonneault, of whom Father Magnan was also the spiritual director before asking for a change following his first meeting with him.

He started explaining to me how testicles were made. ''When you cut them, he insisted, you see that they look like oranges inside. I imagine he had already dissected some. Once again, in my little head as a teenager and a neophyte in matters of sexuality, I wondered what these explanations had to do with my spirituality, mentions Mr. Boissonneault.

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A photo of Father Maurice Magnan published following of his death in December 2014.

Julien Rivard says he was also a victim of Father Magnan. He received me in his room-office, upstairs in the presbytery of the Saint-Michel parish. After drawing a penis and testicles and talking to me about them, he approached me, leaned over and took my upper thighs while looking at me with a smile, his mouth a little open. The adjectives that stuck with me: disgusting, disgusting. I froze. It remained there and I left very disturbed, specifies Mr. Rivard.

The men I met said they spoke publicly, since x27;they fear that they are not the only ones to have experienced difficult times at St-Michel Seminary.

For a long time, I wanted to convince myself that this fateful experience had not left any traces on me. I have to admit that now I'm not so sure. In any case, I fervently hope that my testimony encourages victims of sexual or psychological abuse to speak openly, as a first step towards liberation. I regret not having consulted a psychologist who would have recommended a course of action for me, says Marc Ryan.

The six men nevertheless retain good memories of their time at St-Michel Seminary, but believe that many events that occurred within the establishment have left their mark, particularly on the way women were perceived there.

One ​​of my spiritual directors had me sit on his bed. I remember my discomfort. He never touched me. He asked me if I had a blonde. He asked me to break up with her, relates Donald Nolet, who reports having given in and having effectively separated from his girlfriend although he loved her.

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The dormitory of the St-Michel Seminary, where the student boarders slept in the years 1960-1970.

I think it left some marks. He [his spiritual director] talked a lot about the woman being sin, the temptation of Satan. That sex was dirty. I found old poems from when I was 19 and it wasn't very nice, what I thought of women at that time. The title of the poem was: Eve, the demon of my nights. It shows a truly misogynistic conception that I carried within me, points out Mr. Nolet.

Kissing a woman was like kissing 22 feet of intestines; that’s how he talked about women. We always felt guilty. Women were nasty, sex was nasty. Monsignor Tessier came to tell us that women were sin. Me, in my head, I said to myself: your mother, what do you do with her? It’s a woman, adds Philippe Boissonneault, who says she has suffered after-effects.

I experienced a lot of guilt during puberty and adolescence, the years of sexual awakening. These feelings persisted even in my relationship with my wife, he confides.

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Joseph Guiho even made the headlines of the Rouyn-Noranda newspaper La Frontière in 1995. The one who was then priest of Évain claimed to have met Satan!

Father Joseph Guiho was and remains a controversial figure. While some would like to see him canonized, the men we met all say he had a dark side. Joseph Guiho not only claimed to have performed miracles, such as healings, but he also said he practiced exorcisms.

The six men believe that the reputation of saint that some associate with Abbot Guiho is erroneous.

Guiho had a personality that could be described as charismatic. He had a certain magnetism, he had a hold on people. So, as soon as there was someone subject to receiving influences, well, he had an absolutely extraordinary hold on that person. One of his colleagues told me that with Guiho, he had to bleed, he had to cry, otherwise he had the impression of not having accomplished his mission. Then, we had to go behind him to help the young people he had demolished to rebuild their lives, says Pierre Trépanier.

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A crest of the St-Michel Seminary, at the time.

I felt like he was being manipulative and I didn't want to get involved in that. I was afraid of falling under his influence. He could really humiliate people. Once, in Belles-Lettres class, he grabbed my desk and knocked it over in the classroom, along with all its contents, adds Philippe Boissonneault.

I was manipulated. He was a good manipulator and I was a manipulatable person at that time. This is what is more difficult for me to see, because I have always seen myself as a critical, militant and resistant person, relates Donald Nolet, visibly emotional, specifying that he continues to see the full impact today that Joseph Guiho had on his life.

For André Gilbert, his difficult relationship with Joseph Guiho continued well beyond his time at St-Michel Seminary. Mr. Gilbert, who had been a priest for 14 years, one day decided to leave the priesthood to marry a woman. Shortly before his marriage, he received a letter from Joseph Guiho.

In essence, he told me this: If I came to the Seminary at 13, it is impossible that it was not a true call from God to the priesthood, especially since I was a priest until the age of 42. According to Guiho, all my realizations where I do not feel called to celibacy are the work of Satan, relates André Gilbert, who kept the letter.

It was a teaching that was of quality in many aspects, but at the cost of an elitism that we would consider shameless today, with incredible skimming. We started with over 80 [students], and six years later we ended up with eight. There are many who were expelled or who did not meet the requirements. There are some who experienced it very hard; several were very humiliated and crushed, continues Julien Rivard.

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Priest Joseph Guiho has been the subject of several articles in the newspaper La Frontière over the years.

The diocese of Rouyn-Noranda informed us having established a committee mandated to receive complaints that could be made against the organization.

The members of this committee as well as the bishop, Mgr. Guy Boulanger, met the six men at their request in recent weeks.

I was pleasantly surprised, especially by the relaxed and relaxed nature of the meeting. After five minutes we were comfortable, we could talk. The bishop really had an open attitude, he seemed extremely friendly to me, notes Pierre Trépanier.

Mgr Boulanger did not wish to grant us an interview, but the organization sent us a press release.

Mgr Guy Boulanger says dismayed by the elements found in these statements. Like all members of the diocesan Church, he deplores all forms of abuse, which should never occur in the church and even less so on the part of its ministers, we read in this press release.

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Mgr Guy Boulanger, bishop of Rouyn-Noranda. (File photo)

The diocese of Rouyn-Noranda also let us know that it is committed to collaborating with the diocese of Timmins, to which the institution [the St-Michel Seminary] belonged at that time so that all the light can be shed.

Marc Ryan also appreciated the meeting, but believes an apology is now necessary.

There are two things in an apology: firstly accepting that the facts are the facts and I believe that that is already a step taken with the religious authorities. The second part is how to explain it publicly. There are different ways to write your mea culpa, he observes.

Julien Rivard would like their complaints to be available on the diocese website. Putting it effectively in the public space and increasing the chance that other victims will become aware of it and come forward to free themselves is one more tool to do so, he says.

In 1982, Joseph Guiho co-founded the Jesus-Est-Seigneur community, located at the east end of rue Perreault, in Rouyn-Noranda.

Several members of this community have always held Joseph Guiho in high esteem and some even demand that he be canonized. The mortal remains of Father Guiho lie in a crypt of this building. He was never buried in the cemetery. Canonical permission was granted by the bishopric of Rouyn-Noranda so that he could rest within his community.

The allegations at respect for their founder surprises members of the community. The chairman of the board of directors, Bernard Girard, declined to comment in an interview, but sent us a written reaction.

It is with dismay that the Jesus-is-Lord community learned of these allegations against Father Guiho and takes them very seriously. We strongly condemn all forms of sexual abuse. We believe that sexual abuse is unacceptable and that it is an attack on the integrity and dignity of the human person, regardless of the status or reputation of the person who committed it, we can read in the press release. .

Bernard Girard assures that his organization intends to collaborate with the diocese. To date, we are not aware of any allegations of abuse by Father Guiho towards past or current members of the Jesus-is-Lord community. However, if past or current members would like to report abuse on the part of Father Guiho, we invite them to do so to the diocese of Rouyn-Noranda through its mechanism for welcoming victims and processing complaints, we indicate in the press release.

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