Accused priest banned from ministry work
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A retired priest accused of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl at a Manitoba residential school more than 50 years ago is banned from doing ministry work.
Arthur Masse, 92, is charged with indecent assault for alleged abuse between 1968 and 1970 at the Fort Alexander Residential School in Sagkeeng First Nation.
Masse continues to live at a retirement home in St. Boniface, after being released with conditions following his arrest by the RCMP earlier this month.
He faces disciplinary action from the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Catholic religious order he belongs to.
“No Oblate who has been credibly accused of abuse is allowed to participate in ministry work, and that will continue to be the case as he faces these charges,” Rev. Ken Thorson, a leader with the Ottawa-based OMI Lacombe Canada, wrote in an email to the Free Press on Wednesday. “As part of our congregational commitment to the larger community, we are available to speak with local authorities and will accept any guidance on the safest practices as Arthur Masse awaits his trial.
“During this period, he will continue to live (at the retirement home), under the supervision of his superior.”
Masse is required to check in with his superior “a few times” per day, primarily at meals and group prayer.
“Given his advanced age, all of his activities are supervised within the retirement home,” Thorson wrote.
A Free Press reporter visited the facility in an attempt to speak to Masse. After taking an elevator to an upper floor, the home’s executive director returned and said Masse was “not available.”
Multiple retired OMI priests are among the residents of the building, which offers independent and assisted living.
Masse has lived there since his retirement in 2005. He was appointed a co-director of the facility’s Oblate community, according to a May 2020 newsletter.
“While the home includes laity and religious residents, his wing is dedicated to the latter,” Thorson wrote.
Last week, teacher and artist Victoria McIntosh, 63, spoke to the Free Press about Masse, who is charged with sexually assaulting her.
She said she is tired of carrying shame and she wants to educate people, especially younger generations, about residential schools.
“I’m on my healing journey, but I’ve accepted that some of these wounds are so deep I’m going to be healing until I take my last breath,” she said.
Born in tiny Ferland, Sask., Masse started teaching at residential schools in 1957, spending time at three sites in Manitoba — Pine Creek (Camperville), Fort Alexander and Brandon — according to the Oblates’ internal records.
He also taught at the Fort Frances and McIntosh residential schools in northern Ontario.
Before retiring, Masse worked as a director of an elder care community in Winnipeg from 2001 to 2005.
Residential school survivors are planning to attend Masse’s first court appearance in Powerview on July 20.
He was charged after a decade-long Manitoba RCMP investigation into allegations of abuse at the Fort Alexander school.
More survivors have come forward with allegations of abuse since the indecent assault charge was announced at a Manitoba RCMP news conference June 17.
“The new reports made to police are being investigated,” spokeswoman Tara Seel wrote in an email Wednesday. “As this is an ongoing police investigation, we will not provide information about who we have spoken with or what investigational avenues we are taking.
“I can confirm for you that no new charges have been laid.”
Thorson said OMI Lacombe Canada is “fully committed” to co-operating with police.
The Manitoba Métis Federation is carrying out its own investigation into the time Masse spent in the Métis villages of Duck Bay and Camperville.
The Oblates operated 48 residential schools in Canada, including one in Kamloops, B.C., where the suspected unmarked graves of 215 children were identified in May 2021.
OMI Lacombe Canada has apologized to residential school survivors who were sexually abused.
“An educator’s first responsibility is to safeguard students and respect their inherent dignity, and it greatly saddens me that this was not always the case for Oblate priests,” Thorson wrote. “Our foremost concern is the protection of minors and vulnerable persons.”
The group has created a safeguarding policy which aims to protect young people and hold its members to standards of conduct.
The policy includes training for staff and guidance on how to swiftly report allegations of sexual abuse.
“Furthermore, the policy makes clear that vowed Oblates are to be held to the highest moral, ethical, and pastoral standards to provide safe spaces in all the communities in which we minister,” Thorson wrote. “Once again, we wish to apologize to the complainants who have brought forward their stories and emphasize our sincerest commitment to creating safe environments with appropriate oversight so that these tragic incidents never repeat themselves.”
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.
Updated on Thursday, June 30, 2022 10:19 AM CDT: Adds further quote from Thorson; adds info regarding Masse working as director of elder care community