Wednesday, September 12, 2018

For Immediate Release September 12, 2018

Pathways Founder Gemma Hickey Writes Letter to Pope; Issues Statement on Investigation of Sexual Abuse of Children in Catholic Church

Following news of widespread investigations into sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Church, clergy abuse survivor Gemma Hickey has sent the Pope a letter stating the Vatican must take full responsibility for the abuse children suffered at Mount Cashel and Belvedere orphanages formerly located in St. John’s, and in other communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

Hickey’s full letter to the Pope is attached.

“New revelations of clerical abuse have surfaced in Pennsylvania and accusations that more Vatican officials, including Pope Francis, were made aware of the misconduct,” said Hickey. “No matter where this type of abuse occurs, the response by church officials is the same. It happened to me and so many others, not just in this province, but all over the world.”

Though Mount Cashel orphanage was permanently closed in 1990, Newfoundland and Labrador still feels the wounds caused by the scandal that erupted in 1989 over allegations of widespread abuse of youth at the hands of clergy. When these allegations emerged in St. John’s, clerical abuse victims began to come forward in other parts of the world.

With the goal of assisting survivors who have been harmed within religious institutions, Gemma Hickey founded The Pathways Foundation in December 2013 and walked across Newfoundland in July 2015 to raise funds and awareness.

Hickey will be tracking receipt of their letter to the Pope on Twitter, and Facebook,

Additional news articles related to this recent scandal are also posted.

Media contact: Gemma M. Hickey Founder, The Pathways Foundation

September 6th, 2018

His Holiness, Pope Francis Saint Martha House

00120 Città del Vaticano,

Vatican City


Your Holiness,

A priest sexually abused me when I was young. My case was settled outside of court. The diocese in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, “lost” my file, and as a result this priest was placed back into active duty. Two bishops were alerted as to the identity of this priest, but did nothing. This priest has since “retired”, yet I am unable to retire from the damage that has been done to me and my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador. But when we are faced with adversity, we are also presented with the unique opportunity to create profound change. This is why I write to you today.

I have forgiven the priest who abused me, as the issue of clerical abuse is larger than him and me. In my humble opinion, I believe the Vatican, after it has adequately apologized to all clerical abuse victims, owes God an apology. I realize you inherited this problem, but the way the Vatican mismanaged this crisis is disgraceful. In order to move forward, I believe the Vatican must take full responsibility before a plea for forgiveness can be considered. In your latest letter to Catholics, for example, there was no reference to new revelations of clerical abuse that surfaced in Pennsylvania. I view this as the abject failure of the Vatican to acknowledge that actual people in actual communities with specific histories were shattered and brutally harmed at the hands of predacious priests and the bishops who protected them.

At Mount Cashel and Belvedere orphanages, formerly located in St. John’s, Nuns and Christian Brothers abused youth, and in other communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, priests also abused youth. Many places across Canada and around the world have their own horror stories of clerical abuse. When allegations of widespread abuse of youth by clergy erupted during 1988 in Newfoundland and Labrador, allegations emerged all over the world, yet this province has not had a “pastoral visitation” since 1984. The lack of response from the Vatican and the mishandling of my case by the local diocese compelled me into action.

I was educated by Jesuits and have the utmost respect for the order, particularly the call to social action. As a child, I felt called by God, but was unable to pursue it within the Roman Catholic Church due to my gender and sexuality. My ministry takes the shape of activism now, and my conversations with God have evolved into actions of good will towards others. My academic background is in Religious Studies, but I have returned to university to focus my research on how systemic and cultural views on power and sexuality have enabled abuse to thrive within religious institutions. Furthermore, in 2013, I founded the Pathways Foundation – a non-profit for survivors of clerical abuse. And in an effort to bring attention to the cause, I walked 938 kilometers across Newfoundland in July 2015, from Port aux Basques to the Mount Cashel memorial in St. John’s.

Your Holiness, just as I made a choice to respond differently to my experience of abuse, surely you have the capacity to respond differently to this global crisis. While you are taking some personal time to reflect on the recent accusation asserting that you had prior knowledge of clerical misconduct, I respectfully welcome the opportunity to speak with you by phone or in person to discuss this urgent matter further. Until then, I wish you well and remain hopeful for your kind reply.


Gemma Hickey


See VOCM’s coverage on The Pathways Foundation’s latest announcement – renewed funding for survivors of abuse by members of the clergy.

June 1, 2018 Press Release.

Pathways Foundation Announces Funding for Support Group; Renews Vision to Assist Abuse Survivors

June 1, 2018 – As an organization with a clear mandate to promote healing and prevention, The Pathways Foundation renewed its vision for creating a brighter future for the people it represents at the Delta Hotel in St. John’s today.

Founded by clergy abuse survivor Gemma Hickey, The Pathways Foundation announced $1,000 in funding from the Provincial Government and $1,500 from the St. John’s Edge basketball team for the development of a support group to assist survivors who have been harmed within religious institutions.

Along with the development of a support group, Pathways also unveiled a promotional video, new logo, and resource website, available at

“Thanks to our incredible community partnerships, today’s contributions from the Provincial Government and St. John’s Edge will allow Pathways to continue to work towards prevention and provide a support group to help survivors take additional steps on the long road towards healing,” said Hickey. “Working together, we are building dialogue and ending the culture of silence surrounding the clergy abuse crisis.”

28 years ago today, on June 1, 1990 the Roman Catholic Church permanently closed Mount Cashel Orphanage. Newfoundland and Labrador still feels the wounds caused by the scandal that erupted in 1989 over allegations of widespread abuse of youth at Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John’s.

In the years since, Canadians have learned of similar stories in other provinces and indigenous communities, which have their own horror stories of abuse and the harm it causes. Fittingly, June 1 also marks the start of National Aboriginal History Month, an opportunity to honour the heritage, contributions and cultures of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

“A priority for the Department of Justice and Public Safety is to ensure the justice system works for everyone, particularly victims who have been left behind. For survivors of sexual violence, it can be hard to put the pieces back together. The experience can be life altering and the impact is profound. We recognize that these victims need support on many levels and no one approach or service will meet the needs of all. We are pleased to support Pathways with $1000 to assist the important work they do to support survivors of abuse.” – Honourable Andrew Parsons, Minister of Justice and Public Safety and Attorney General

Providing encouragement for youth and support for community organizations – including Pathways – were hallmarks of the St. John’s Edge’s success during their inaugural National Basketball League season.

“The St. John’s Edge are proud to support The Pathways Foundation. The announcement of this support group will assist many individuals as they continue their journey of healing. The Edge are dedicated to being a team of the community and we hope that our support of this initiative will assist with the important efforts of the Pathways Foundation.” – Trevor Murphy, Assistant GM and Director of Team Operations

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Media contact:

Gemma M. Hickey

Founder, The Pathways Foundation


Keep up-to-date with the latest news about The Pathways Foundation.