Shaming without evidence: readers respond

On Sunday, I questioned the sudden closure of the Talbot House Recovery Centre, and the treatment accorded it’s executive director, Fr. Paul Abbass, after a victim’s rights activist apparently passed along an unspecified third- or fourth-party complaint about Abbass to the Department of Community Services.

A sample of the responses follows, but please also see this clarification of my original post.

A reader writes:

I am a former resident of Talbot house and I am convinced the experience saved my life. At no time during my therapy did I witness any impropriety on the part of Paul Abbass or any staff member. Talbot House has been a place of healing for many, for many years.

Ed Murphy, retired director of the St. Francis Xavier Extension office in Sydney, writes:

I’ve known this guy a long time, and I’ve been a long-time admirer of the work of Talbot House. I’m so pissed about the way this has been handled. Thanks for doing something when the rest of us do nothing.

A former parishioner of St. Andrew’s Church, Boisdale, where Father Paul Abbass was the parish priest, writes from Ontario:

I am in total agreement with your article. Innocent till proven guilty… Everyone has a right to confront their accuser, and Fr. Abbass is no less entitled.

A Halifax resident who calls Beaver Cove home writes:

Although I did not have the opportunity to get to know him very well, people whose opinion I value speak very highly of him. Furthermore, based on my limited interaction with him, I, too, found him to be a good and spiritual person.

If Father Abbass is guilty of impropriety, particularly in light of the recent events in the diocese, then this is very alarming and the church in this area may be damaged beyond repair.

Furthermore, Father Abbass will have to take responsibility for his actions.

However, what worries me as much is: What happens if the allegations are not criminal and he is innocent? The people at the Department of Community Services and the Board at Talbot house will have to explain to the public and to the parishioners how they plan to put this genie back in the bottle.

Father Abbass has already been dealt with as if he is guilty, losing all positions of trust. While this is appropriate, it places a great deal of responsibility on those who are investigating the allegations. They must be expeditious yet diligent.

What worries me is that the department’s responsibility to be expeditious may not be considered important. If the allegations are ultimately unfounded, Father Abbass’s reputation will be none the less harmed. If so, I hope the press will demand that the department explain in clear terms why the investigation took as long as it has.

A former board member of Talbot House, whose son was treated there, writes:

My son spent the better part of a year there, continued his education, remains sober and works full time. He did all the work. Talbot House was the perfect supportive setting.

I sent Father Paul an email when I read about the allegations. I told him that I believe in him and all his goodness. I still do.

I was crushed to hear the place was closed so quickly. I don’t know why, and have not talked with any board members or staff. I wish this investigation would shed some light not only on the allegations, but on Talbot House’s effectiveness. I believe it will stand up to scrutiny.

Talbot House was designed around the belief that an addicted person can recover and rebuild a life.

That approach conflicts with other provincial facilities, which seem to be more about preventing harm to society than helping someone who is sick. That’s my biased view. And don’t get me started on the ridiculous policy of only opening the door to treatment if the sick person quits cigarettes too.

Questions should be asked about Talbot House’s premature demise. It happened too quickly and without explanation. Those questions aren’t likely to be asked by sick people who struggle to cope with recovery from addiction.

Teresa MacNeil, former Chair of the Cape Breton Development Corporation, Vice-Chair of Enterprise Cape Breton, and director of Extension at St. FX, writes:

Thank you for so clearly articulating the essential features of the shoddy treatment of one who deserves open and just treatment. Actually every accused person deserves that much.

I have been aware of Father Paul Abbass’s work over the years, especially when he was located in Antigonish and new Glasgow; always characterized by a high level of service, concern, dedication, commitment. It is entirely unacceptable to allow him to be quietly banished without open and just attention to the complaint that forced him to “step down.”

Thanks to all who wrote.