Priest flees, Igloolik RCs on their own for Easter
Father Tony Krotki threatened in wake of Dejaeger revelations
The 700 Catholic worshippers in Igloolik will be without a priest during Easter which falls later this month, following the rapid departure of Father Tony Krotki, who fled the community after receiving threats.
Of the 16 churches in the Churchill-Hudson Bay diocese, Igloolik’s St. Stephen Church has the second largest Catholic congregation in Nunavut.
It will be the only one without a priest to celebrate during the Roman Catholic church’s most important religious holiday of the year.
Father Tony did not want to press charges, but police couldn’t assure his security, Bishop Reynald Rouleau of the Churchill diocese said in a March 31 interview.
“So it was safer for him to leave,” Bishop Rouleau said, who did not elaborate on the nature of the threats. “Given this situation, the entire context of the residential school [Truth and Reconciliation] commission and the case of Eric Dejaeger, which has not yet been in court, and the fact that there had been threats from one person, I think he had to leave. There was no choice.”
Father Tony, who had been in Igloolik since 2001, was “absolutely” traumatized by the incident.
He’s now in Winnipeg, Bishop Rouleau said.
For Bishop Rouleau, the incident was also disturbing and left him “emotionally exhausted.”
“It’s hard to take,” he said. “At the same time, we have to acknowledge that it’s not the entire population of Igloolik that rejected him. It’s one individual.”
Bishop Rouleau said he never would have thought that this kind of situation — that is, a priest being threatened by a member of his congregation — would occur.
“I’m as unhappy as he is,” he said. “On the other hand I don’t have any solutions immediately.”
Although it’s too late to find a priest willing to come to Igloolik for Easter, Rev. Quang Van, who is usually based in Hall Beach, came to Igloolik during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s visit to the community on March 23 and March 24.
Father Tony may return to Igloolik, but not immediately. He’s asked Father Robert Lechat, who has also served in the community, to look into the situation.
“People in Igloolik want Tony to come back, but we have too make sure he’s safe. We don’t have any choice,” Bishop Rouleau said.
At the same time, Bishop Rouleau acknowledged the trauma experienced by many former residential students who now live in Igloolik and by the victims of former priest Eric Dejaeger, who now faces many sex charges related to his stay in Igloolik during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
“I never would have imagined that this would have been possible that these kinds of abuses could have occurred,” Bishop Rouleau said, “Even one instance [of abuse] is one too many.”
Bishop Rouleau, who was named to lead the diocese in 1987, said he met Dejaeger a couple of times before former priest left the region in 1988.
Then, Bishop Rouleau said he had “no idea” what Dejaeger had done.
“That’s how it was.”
But the wrongs of the past don’t justify the threats made to Father Tony, he said.
“In our society it’s unacceptable to make threats,” he said.