A Roman Catholic priest from St. Boniface has been stripped of his ordination by the Pope, six years after allegations surfaced that he sexually abused young men he was counselling.
Archbishop Albert LeGatt of the Archdiocese of St. Boniface announced in a letter to clergy dated April 19 that Fred Olds, former priest at St. Timothy and St. Bernadette parishes, was dismissed from the clerical state by Pope Francis and also removed from all priestly obligations, including celibacy.
The announcement comes two months after the decision was handed down by the Vatican’s Congregation of the Clergy on Feb. 27, 2021, which stated Olds, 73, has no possibility of appeal or other recourse regarding the decision.
"There is established a clear pattern of grooming young men, struggling with addictions, to eventually engage in sexual behaviour," the statement reads.
In November 2016, Archbishop LeGatt placed Olds on administrative leave from St. Timothy Roman Catholic Parish and restricted him from public ministry after allegations surfaced about repeated and ongoing acts of sexual abuse of young men during counselling. Olds was a priest at St. Bernadette from 1992 to 2015.
LeGatt said none of the victims was a minor at the time of the abuse and he did not say how many victims were involved.
After the allegations came to light, LeGatt appointed a psychologist to investigate, and then undertook a formal canonical trial involving 15 witnesses, which wrapped up in 2018. Olds chose not to be interviewed or to name any witnesses during the process, the letter said.
The process was delayed when the Vatican asked for more information in 2019.
Archbishop LeGatt was not available for comment on Wednesday but wrote in his letter to clergy that he is committed to protecting vulnerable people and ensuring safety within parishes.
"Abuse and harassment of any kind have no place in the life of our church," LeGatt wrote.
The archbishop also promised members of the two parishes involved that he would meet with them virtually to answer any questions about the process, but no date has been set, said Rev. Brian Trueman, the new priest at St. Timothy Roman Catholic Church on John Forsyth Road.
"The bishop is going to meet with some of my parishioners to follow up on that process, so we’re having an online Zoom meeting," said Trueman.
Ordained to the priesthood in Winnipeg in 1975, Olds has returned to his hometown of Hamilton.
His previous parish of St. Bernadette made headlines in 2017 when former church administrator Leo McCaughan pleaded guilty to fraud over $5,000 after stealing more than $357,000 from parish coffers.
McCaughan claimed at his sentencing trial that previous sexual exploitation by an unnamed priest contributed to his actions, but the judge found no evidence to support that claim.
Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.