Church's Handling of Abuse Case Praised: Some Trinity College Students Not So Happy

Article excerpt

Toronto

The way the sexual abuse by priest and professor Dr. David Holeton was handled earned praise for the church but some dissatisfaction at the college where he taught.

Dr. Holeton was suspended from the priesthood last April by the church after a male student at Trinity College made a formal complaint in October 1994. Bishops in the church were immediately notified, but no public statement was made because a second set of complaints, involving two victims (one of them a teenager at the time of the abuse), arose after Dr. Holeton's suspension.

Those complaints involved incidents in the dioceses of Toronto and New Westminster, B.C., where Dr. Holeton served in parishes. He also taught at Vancouver School of Theology.

The investigation concluded in the fall of 1995 when Dr. Holeton admitted to the incidents, said Archdeacon Colin Johnson, executive assistant to Bishop of Toronto Terence Finlay.

But the announcement was delayed until January 1996 while the diocese prepared its statement and a response team went to work with the two congregations involved.

Meanwhile, Dr. Holeton had already resigned as Dean of Divinity in January 1995 as a result of the situation. He had been dean at Trinity for two years and professor of liturgics since 1987. He resigned from that position early this year after admitting to the substance of all the charges.

Students at Trinity and parishioners at two Toronto churches with which Dr. Holeton was associated were notified about the situation in January by letter from Bishop Finlay.

Rev. Milton Barry, rector of Grace Church-on-the-Hill in Toronto, where Dr. Holeton was a former honorary assistant, said that while his congregation was surprised by the resignation, he was struck by how proud people were of the way the church dealt with the issue.

He said a number of parishioners, several of whom are from the business and arts communities, asked for copies of the diocesan sexual abuse policy.

"They said, `We wish our own workplaces dealt so well with this.' "

He also said parishioners appreciated hearing the news from their bishop.

"They heard it right from the hierarchy. There was very little rumour going on."

Meanwhile, relieved that long-time rumours have been laid to rest, students at Trinity say they are beginning to pull themselves together after the incident.

"As people of God, we're called to trust," said a third-year divinity student seeking ordination. "Someone who was acting as our guide, our mentor, said `Trust me'. …