A class action lawsuit has been filed against the Archdiocese of Vancouver claiming the archdiocese was “systematically negligent” in protecting parishioners from abusive priests. Photo courtesy The B.C. Catholic

Vancouver archdiocese ‘negligent’ on abuse, suit says

By  Agnieszka Ruck, Canadian Catholic News
  • September 2, 2020

VANCOUVER -- A proposed class-action lawsuit filed against the Archdiocese of Vancouver claims the archdiocese was “systematically negligent” in protecting parishioners from abuse by clergy.

“The archdiocese was aware of the abuse and allowed the abuse to continue. The archdiocese was also complicit in silencing survivors, who were required to take oaths of secrecy when making complaints to the archdiocese,” the claim states.

The plaintiff, a woman identified as K.S. in court documents, alleged she was abused by a priest at St. Francis of Assisi Parish when she was about 11 years old. The documents say she has had no contact with her abuser since elementary school and “remains terrified of priests and the power of the archdiocese.”

K.S. reported the abuse to the Archdiocese of Vancouver in January of 2019.

None of the allegations have been proven in court and the priest in question is now deceased.

The proposed class-action lawsuit is now at the start of a certification process. If the class-action suit is not approved, the claimant retains the right to proceed with a civil action for their claim.The archdiocese has not filed a legal response, but did release a media statement confirming K.S. reported the abuse in 2019 and received a prompt response, immediate counselling and a suggestion she make a report to the police.

“To protect other individuals, we also sought immediate assurances from the accused priest’s order that he was no longer in ministry. The order advised that the priest was infirm and not active in any ministry work. They also confirmed that there had been no complaints ever received about him,” said the statement.

“We cannot make any further comments about this case as it is now before the courts. We hope the attendant publicity will help give any other victims/survivors the confidence to come forward and get the help they deserve.”

The Archdiocese of Vancouver has been addressing the issue of sexual abuse by clergy in recent years. After launching a review of all files relating to cases of abuse from 1950 onward, the archdiocese released a 12-page report last November with 31 recommendations for improving reporting, policies and outreach to victims. It also published the names and photos of nine priests who were criminally convicted of abuse or named in settled lawsuits and other public cases.

The report said the committee that reviewed the files determined 26 assaults of minors “likely occurred in Vancouver over the last 70 years” and another 10 cases involved adults. The archdiocese said it only published names it determined it was legally allowed to.

Vancouver isn’t the only Canadian Catholic diocese facing legal action. A class-action lawsuit was filed against the Quebec archdiocese last month, against the Saint-Jean-Longueuil diocese in 2019 and against the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth in 2018, also alleging physical and/or sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, a victim of sexual abuse by a priest in the Diocese of Kamloops in the 1970s has been awarded more than $840,000 in damages by a B.C. Supreme Court judge.

The civil case involves a former elementary school teacher who alleged Fr. Erlindo Molon, who had been serving at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Kamloops, sexually assaulted her in the 1970s after she had come to him seeking counselling after the death of her father.

Justice David Crossin ruled on Aug. 25 there is “no doubt” Molon “caused psychological harm” to the plaintiff, Rosemary Anderson.

Vancouver Archbishop Emeritus Adam Exner was Bishop of Kamloops from 1974 to 1982. In court documents, the retired bishop said he discussed with the plaintiff her relationship with Molon but was unaware it involved sexual assault. He did acknowledge Molon was known to be a “playboy” and that Molon was told to leave the diocese in 1977 and return to his home diocese of Palo in the Philippines.

The judge ruled that Exner, now 90 years old, was “candid about his failings and expressed regret that he did not act to prevent the plaintiff’s abuse,” but “his failure to act fell egregiously short of the standard of care required of a person in his position of trust and authority.”

Last modified on September 2, 2020

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