Fr. William ”Hod” Hodgson Marshall Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Windsor abuse victims launch suit against abuser, diocese, Basilians

By  Ron Stang, Catholic Register Special
  • February 24, 2012

WINDSOR, Ont. - Four former Windsor students of Fr. William ”Hod” Hodgson Marshall are suing the priest, the Congregation of St. Basil and the diocese of London for claims arising from sexual abuse for which the now 89-year-old priest has been convicted.

Marshall was sentenced last June to two years in jail after pleading guilty to 17 counts of indecent assault between 1962 and 1985 for cases that arose in Windsor, Toronto and Sudbury. Marshall was a teacher, coach and principal at schools in those cities.

The suits, each for a total of $3 million, were brought by Greg McCullough, Thomas Haberer, David D’agnillo and an unnamed plaintiff. Beside the priest and Basilian Fathers, also being sued is Bishop Ronald Fabbro of the London diocese.

McCullough and Haberer were abused at Assumption College High School and D’agnillo at Windsor’s Holy Names High School.

Lawyer Rob Talach, who represents 14 of Marshall’s victims, said the news conference was held in part to create awareness of the cases so that more people who have information about Marshall might come forward.

“Because of the historical and wide-ranging nature of the case really the only means to do that is through a public venue,” he said.

“Where is that parish secretary that’s 83 years old that received a complaint in 1960? Those are the people we are trying to reach out to, to let them know that there is a place to come and tell and let the truth be known.”

McCullough said the legal action aims to force Church authorities to take more action against sexual abuse.

“It has not been addressed properly and these people have been allowed to go their merry way,” he said. “Marshall was shifted every two or three years — somebody knew — and that was just not right.”

While the Basilians have offered counselling for the victims, Talach, who’s also calling for a criminal investigation, said it isn’t enough. Extracting large sums from Church corporations “is what’s going to cause change,” he said.

“And even if it comes down to one day an accountant at the diocesan office or the Basilian centre, waking in and saying to the superior, look at these numbers, we’ve got to change how we deal with these guys, it’s hurting us financially, then something positive has come out of it.”

Talach plans to hold a news conference in late March with victims in Sudbury.

Toronto lawyer Simona Jellinek, who also represents several of Marshall’s victims, said her clients “want a sense of justice, and want a sense of empowerment and want a sense of closure.”

She said some lawsuits have been settled.

Marshall was also charged this month with indecent assault against two former students in Saskatoon for incidents that occurred in 1959 and 1960 while he taught at St. Paul’s High School.

Marshall is in custody in Kingston and a parole hearing is scheduled in March.

Marshall taught at various schools in Ontario, Saskatchewan and in Houston, Texas, and did missionary work in St. Lucia.

Fr. Timothy Scott, General Councillor and spokesman for the Basilians, said the order’s “first concern” is with the victims “and to their families and associates.” He said it has committed to “providing support for restorative therapy.”

As for victims choosing to sue, Scott said, “we will respond to that but we will do whatever we can to facilitate their healing.”

(Stang is a freelance writer in Windsor, Ont.)

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