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"I'm going to fight it," said the Bishop.

P.E.I. church to fight sexual assault suit

By Jim Day
Charlottetown Guardian

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Diocese of Charlottetown Bishop Vernon Fougere says an Island priest facing a sexual assault civil suit may have been dealt a career-ending blow even if he successfully fights the suit.

"Even after this has been settled it will be pretty difficult for him to continue doing ministry,'' Fougere said Thursday of Rev. Floyd McGaugh.

"Once the accusation has been made, it is pretty difficult.''

A woman, who is only identified as Jane Doe, claims that McGaugh raped her and fathered her child.

A civil lawsuit was served several weeks ago on the Diocese of Charlottetown and also on then-bishop Francis John Spence, who the woman claims took no action years ago when he heard Doe's claims.

Doe's lawyer, Dale Dunlop of Halifax, told The Guardian that he has yet to serve the suit on McGaugh due to difficulty locating the man.

The Guardian has learned that McGaugh returned to Prince Edward Island this week after spending time in the United States. He could not be reached for comment.

Fougere said McGaugh was a retired priest who still filled in.

"He had been going to Little Pond (St. Francis de Sales) occasionally,'' he said.

"He had been helping out at the St. Pius X Parish (in Charlottetown). In fact that is where he has been living.''

Fougere said McGaugh, who is not currently living at the parish, "won't be doing any (ministry) work until this thing is settled one way or the other.''

The bishop said he didn't know what course of action McGaugh was planning.

Dunlop said his client, Jane Doe, will not back down from the suit.

"It's not a bluff,'' he said. "The suit will be proceeding to its conclusion . . . It takes a very mature person to stand up to the rigour of this type of case . . . In cases involving the church, there's always people that refuse to believe anything.''

The woman claims she was molested and sexually assaulted by McGaugh, often at the church's parochial house.

She says she was 13 when the alleged abuse began on P.E.I.

The lawsuit claims Doe quit school and moved to New Brunswick because she was unable to cope with the priest's advances.

She moved around the Maritimes and Ontario, and each time the priest showed up at her home, she says.

Doe says the priest used his position as a religious authority to convince her to continue the sexual relationship even though she knew it was a bad idea.

The priest got her pregnant in October 1972, Doe claims, and moved her to Halifax a short time later. She says he visited during her pregnancy and was well aware he was the baby's father.

Doe did not call it off with the priest until he approached her about putting the baby up for adoption. She ended up doing just that because she was unable to care for the baby, she says.

Then-bishop Spence abruptly ended a meeting with her, she claims, when told the baby had been placed for adoption. No action was taken.

Spence could not be reached. His lawyer declined comment.

Rev. Floyd Gallant, who is pastor of St. Mary's in Souris, St. Francis in Little Pond and St. Alexis in Rollo Bay, said the community is shocked by the allegations against the "beloved'' priest.

"People have just felt really sad and hurt,'' he said.

"Whenever that kind of stuff hits the press, there's always a sense shock and hurt. That is not in any way a comment on his innocence or guilt.''

Gallant said the allegation has also impacted on the kind of service that can be provided because McGaugh was able to provide a service every Sunday.

Meanwhile, Fougere said the diocese is set to defend itself against the suit.

"I'm going to fight it,'' said the bishop.

"Unless someone convinces me I should settle out of court, but that is not my leaning right now.''

© Copyright 2003 Internations' Justice Federation