October 5, 2021.- In recent months, the Catholic Church in Canada has been reeling from the news regarding the discovery of undocumented Residential School grave sites in Western Canada. It is under these tragic circumstances that we were distressed to learn of reports of abuse by Fr. Léon Lajoie, S.J. while he served as a parish priest in Kahnawá:ke.
The Jesuits have conducted a thorough search of the archival records pertaining to Fr. Lajoie. We found no correspondence that contained complaints of boundary violations or abuse during his long career as a Jesuit priest. We treat all allegations of sexual or other abuse with the utmost seriousness and concern.We are committed to working with the community to determine the facts.
We are also aware of the circumstances of Fr. Lajoie’s burial in the community and remain open to all possible solutions that would result in healing and reconciliation. It appears that a meaningful investigation of the complaints may be impossible without this issue being resolved.
Everyone that we have spoken to agrees that Fr. Lajoie would never have wanted the location of his earthly remains to give rise to a conflict that would turn friends and family against each other in the Community that he loved.
Saint Francis-Xavier Mission and the St. Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine are two of the oldest and most sacred of Catholic sites. We have spoken at great length with the Pastor and Church Committee about possible means of bringing this conflict to a peaceful conclusion. Everyone is as shocked as we are by these revelations and seek an investigation that will determine whether the allegations are well founded.
Like the people of Kahnawá:ke, the Jesuits of Canada will always seek dialogue and healing. We remain grateful for anyone who reaches out to us.
The Jesuits asked the protestors for their help and guidance in learning more about what happened and what we could do to arrive at the truth. We had a respectful and candid meeting in person at the Kateri Hall in August. We were grateful for this opportunity to meet one on one. We share a commitment to work towards achieving social justice.
Grand Chief Kahsennehawe Sky-Deer and the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke have been respectful and listened to our position. Our dialogue is continuing. We appreciate that they do not want to make a rushed decision that would cause greater harm in the community. Many of the Councillors and former Chiefs have shared their personal opinions with us as well. All of this has been very helpful.
We are endeavoring to follow the procedures that the Jesuits of Canada have in place for investigating historic allegations of abuse. This involves meeting with the people of Kahnawà:ke and the representatives of all sides. We have promised to keep our consultations in the strictest confidence so nothing can be taken out of context or misrepresented.
From the very founding of the Jesuits, we have understood that our responsibility of fraternal living, which implies mutual support and care, includes the custody of the bodies of our deceased brothers. The Society of Jesus has always maintained cemeteries for its members, and we make great efforts to bring the bodies of Jesuits who have died back to our own burial places. It is only by exception that a Jesuit would not be buried in our own cemetery.
Objection to the desecration of graves and respect for human remains are deep spiritual beliefs in both of our cultures. For too long, the Church has turned a blind eye to the remains and sacred items of Native peoples being exhumed and plundered. The neglect of First Nations burial sites near the Residential Schools is a legacy that we are all ashamed of.
We believe that everyone desires a peaceful solution to this situation that will promote healing and allow the investigation to go forward. We are grateful for the forbearance of the media as we attempt to work towards this.
Director of Communication
514-387-2541 x. 217