The Sudbury Star
Saturday, April 28, 2018 4:38:22 EDT AM
Rev. William Hodgson Marshall
A man who was abused by a priest in Sudbury five decades ago has won a $2.5-million settlement against the Basilian Fathers of Toronto.
“I hope this outcome will cause the Basilians to rethink their position on how they treat sex abuse victims; stop listening to their legal experts and listen to their hearts and the teachings of Jesus Christ,” Rod MacLeod, now 68, said in a statement.
A Toronto civil jury awarded the damages, believed to be the largest civil award in Canada given to a victim of priest abuse.
MacLeod said he never fully overcame the psychological damaged Father William Hodgson Marshall caused so many years ago.
“The problem was I was came from a very strong Catholic family and was taught the priest could do no wrong,” MacLeod told Postmedia.
When Marshall would come to their home to pick up MacLeod, his parents were “overjoyed,” he recalled
Throughout his life, the emotional and psychological pain from the abuse “bubbles up inside me.”
He abruptly left what would have been a successful, long career in the military. He had a strong career in the construction business but never felt worthy.
“That’s been the story of my life. I have great success and then it just falls apart because of this energy inside that says, ‘Look, you are not worth anything,’” he said.
The court process was gruelling and forced MacLeod to re-visit the abuse over and over again. “Finally, we’ve reached the end here,” he said.
The Basilians are a Roman Catholic religious order of priests who operate on three continents, including all of Canada and the United States, with their headquarters located in Toronto.
MacLeod was a student at St. Charles College high school in Sudbury from 1963-1967. At the time, St. Charles was an all-boys school.
Marshall was a Basilian priest when he abused the young MacLeod. In 2011, Marshall was convicted of abusing 17 young people over his 38-year career, including in Sudbury, Windsor and Sault Ste. Marie. He was given a two-year sentence for his crimes.
Marshall at one point was principal at St. Charles, which the Basilians ran at the time. He was later defrocked as a priest, after the sexual abuse surfaced. He died in 2014.
Evidence at Marshall’s criminal trial detailed how he abused children — the youngest was seven years old — in his office, in school showers, in dormitories and the church rectory. Victims told of other priests walking in on the assaults, but never reporting what they saw.
He was given the nickname “Happy Hands” in the 1950s for his tendency to touch students.
“Shockingly, it was disclosed in the trial that the Basilians had in fact received at least three complaints of sexual misconduct by Father Marshall before he was assigned to St. Charles College,” Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers said in a release. “The Basilian pattern of response to such complaints appeared to simply be to transfer Marshall.”
Rob Talach of Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers, who represented McLeod, has handled a number of other cases in which Sudbury men were sexually abused by priests when they were boys.
Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers said punitive damages are a rare and exceptional device only used by the courts” to note reprehensible conduct which offends society’s sense of decency. The goal of punitive damages is to punish, denounce and deter.
“This represents the largest award of punitive damages against the Catholic Church in Canada and is the first time that a jury of average citizens has judged the Church’s handling of sexual abusive priests. It marks a turning point for the Church in Canada who to date have only been required to pay for the damage they caused victims but have never been fined or punished for their institutional conduct and complicity.”
The jury awarded $350,000 in general damages, $75,000 in aggravated damages. $1,588,781 in lump sum income loss, $56,400 for special damages, and $500,000 in punitive damages, for a total of $2,570,181.
“This changes everything,” Talach said of the jury’s decision to award punitive damages. “Victims are not going to walk out with little pieces of silver anymore from settlements. This changes everything for people who have been hurt by the church.”
In this case, he said the jury specifically spelled out in its decision why it was awarding punitive damages. They included:
– The “silent shuffle to divert in conjunction with complaints” to avoid scandal.
– Neglected to document offences.
– Put children in harm’s way, something the jury said was “grossly negligent.”
– No reconciliation with victims.
– Betrayal of trust in the community.
Talach said the total judgment “is larger than all the other judgements I’ve attained at trial ever.”
The jury heard evidence that Father Marshall who also served in Rochester, Saskatoon and Toronto, as well as Sudbury, Windsor, and Sault Ste. Marie, was reported six times over his career, but was allowed to continue in his role as a priest and teacher.
The reports of sexual abuse of boys started in 1947, occurred twice in the 1950s, twice in the 1970s and again in 1989 around the time of his retirement from teaching.
“A further report in 1996 was the most disturbing,” Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers said. “Father Marshall, then ministering on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, ultimately admitted to his Basilian superiors that he had abused upwards of almost 90 boys over his career.
“The Basilian response was limited with no effort at outreach to the boys, no involvement of police and no publication of the fact that one of their own had left such a wake of devastation across the land.
“The hope is that this outcome will motivate change within the Catholic Church.”
In 2016, a $4.25-million lawsuit filed by another former Sudbury student against Marshall, the Basilian Fathers of Toronto and the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie was settled.
Talach said the matter was settled in the man’s favour, but could not go into details due to a confidentiality condition. The victim was 67 at the time the agreement was reached.
“The family was involved,” he said told The Sudbury Star at the time. “There was a lot of fatigue, psychological fatigue. It was resolved at the pre-trial.”
The victim said he was forced to engage in masturbation, fondling and oral sex with Marshall, starting when he was 14.
A jury has awarded $500,000 in punitive damages against a Roman Catholic religious order over a priest’s abuse of a schoolboy, accusing it of betraying the community’s trust by covering up abuse and moving a serial predator along to new posts.
Rob Talach, a lawyer who represented the victim, Rod MacLeod, now 68, said the case represents the largest punitive award by a civil jury in a sexual-abuse case against the Catholic Church in Canada. Over all, the jury award in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice amounted to $2.5-million, which includes money for lost wages, suffering and lost enjoyment of life.
Punitive damages are reserved for particularly egregious conduct, and are meant to deter such conduct in the future.
“I think that the public, as expressed through the jury, is fed up. They want to see more action by institutions,” Mr. Talach said in an interview. “We are moving in a more positive direction. MeToo is part of that. The Cosby conviction is part of that.” (U.S. entertainer Bill Cosby was convicted of sexual offences this week in Pennsylvania.)
Evidence showed that William Hodgson Marshall, a member of the Basilian Fathers (a Catholic order of priests), sexually abused Mr. MacLeod 50 times between 1963 and 1967 while Mr. Macleod was a student at St. Charles College high school in Sudbury, Ont., and Mr. Marshall was a priest and gym teacher.
Mr. Marshall admitted to the church that he had between 58 and 87 victims over three decades, according to evidence presented during the civil trial. The order had received several complaints of abuse about him. He was sentenced to two years in jail in 2011 for indecent assault of 16 children and one woman. He died at age 92 in 2014. There have been at least 17 lawsuits, most of which have been settled out of court.
In Mr. Talach’s closing address to the jury, he likened Mr. Marshall to “a barrel of toxic waste: Every time he abused, it was like that barrel was leaking.” And the Basilians’ response was “simply to move the barrel to another community,” including Rochester, N.Y., Toronto, Windsor, Ont., and Sudbury.
The jury used strong terms in denouncing the church’s conduct, in a document written for the court stating the particulars of the conduct for which it ordered the $500,000 in punitive damages. “Concealment: Silent shuffle undertaken to divert … avoiding scandal, neglected to document offences. Put children in harm’s way – grossly negligent. No reconciliation with victims. … Betrayal of trust with the community.”
The Basilian Fathers, in a statement, said they respect the judgment and are determined to work toward the eradication of sexual abuse. They also said they had previously expressed their “deep shame” over Mr. Marshall’s actions, and that he was dismissed from the priesthood and religious life by Pope Benedict XVI in 2013.
The statement also said the Fathers’ manner of dealing with complaints “was inadequate by today’s standards and knowledge.” The Basilian Fathers have not decided yet whether to appeal the award, Rev. Thomas Rosica, a spokesman, said in an interview.
Deacon René Laprise, a spokesman for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the church has no data to show whether the punitive damages award in the Marshall case was the largest in Canada, as each diocese is responsible for managing cases in its community.
Mr. MacLeod said in an interview that he hopes the new level of punitive damages will be his legacy.
“Finally, we’re pulling the veil off and showing the public exactly what’s been going on.”