Published On Mon Aug 9 2010
STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR
By Mary Ormsby Feature Writer
The snow squeaked beneath the priest’s boots as he twisted out of a Sudbury taxi and walked to the front door of high school teacher Ted Holland’s house. Christmas, one of the most joyous celebrations for Roman Catholics, was only a week away, but the noon meeting between the two men in 1998 wasn’t exactly celebratory.
Holland recalls that the priest, Rev. Bill Irwin, had flown from Toronto for a face-to-face visit, but Holland says it was never made clear to him why. The Basilian priest walked in then took a cheque out of his briefcase.
It was for $21,000. Holland would later call it “hush money.”
Holland insisted he didn’t want the cheque and wouldn’t sue the religious order. He only wanted an apology for being molested in Grade 9 at St. Charles College, the local Catholic all-boys school. The alleged perpetrator was his teacher and basketball coach, Rev. William Hodgson “Hod” Marshall. Holland had complained about the abuse to Sudbury police about five months earlier, to no avail.
Irwin repeated that the money was for him. Holland said he’d think about it. The cleric left the phone number of a high-profile Toronto legal firm to call once the former altar boy had made a decision.
“Then he said ‘Can I have a glass of water?’ and I gave him a glass of water,” says Holland, now 55.
“He called a taxi and after 15 minutes of uncomfortable waiting — talking about nothing in particular, the weather — he left.”
The entire meeting took about half an hour.
Twelve years later, that brief encounter provides a window into how a group within the Roman Catholic Church, the Congregation of St. Basil, responded to allegations of sexual abuse by one of its priests — the same priest who’s now facing criminal charges for molesting four boys in Windsor.
As hard questions are being asked about the current sex abuse scandals scorching the Catholic Church and its spiritual leader, Pope Benedict XVI — such as who knew what, and when — the voluntary payment to Holland also raises questions.
Did the Congregation of St. Basil, which a year later upped its offer to Holland to $30,000, try to buy his silence about a rogue priest who’d been sent to a professional treatment centre in the United States in 1996?
Or did the order, whose motto is “Teach me goodness, discipline and knowledge,” laudably offer generous financial aid to an abuse victim who was under a psychologist’s care and unable to work?
The Basilians say it’s the latter.
“It was our normal response to any (sexual abuse) allegation, particularly involving the abuse of a minor, for Father Irwin (as the order’s vicar general) to offer financial assistance to cover any cost of psychological counseling or therapy required for the healing of the victims,” said Rev. Thomas Rosica, spokesperson for the C.S.B.
“In no way should it be construed as any other type of payment, other than for healing or therapeutic purposes, because it had been made known to us that Mr. Holland was in the care of a psychologist.”
Rosica said no other comment would be made on the Holland matter.
Marshall’s lawyer in the Windsor charges, Andrew Bradie, said he knows little about of “what, if anything, took place in Sudbury.”
Meanwhile, 88-year-old Marshall lives quietly in downtown Toronto as police look into his 50-year teaching career, which began at St. Michael’s College School — where he coached championship basketball teams —and continued in Windsor, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Saskatoon and Houston, Tex.
In May, Windsor police charged Marshall with one count of indecent assault. Since then, more charges were laid after three other men came forward. Two charges stem from allegations of sexual abuse in 1955, with two others from the 1980s.
None of the allegations has been proven in court.
Marshall’s next court appearance is on Sept. 8 in Windsor. The priest will not be in attendance that day, says Bradie, who will meet with Marshall at the end of August to discuss the case.
Bradie has acted for clergy previously. Earlier this year, he negotiated a plea agreement for former Windsor priest John Duarte. Duarte, 44, was sentenced to 18 months for abusing adolescent boys at the Haitian mission he had founded.
Bradie also defended late priest Charles Sylvestre, who at age 83 pled guilty in 2006 to sexually abusing 47 girls over the four decades he ministered in the London and Chatham areas.
In Holland’s case, documents from the Basilians’ law firm in 1998 show the orders’ lawyers believed the molestation allegations would be difficult to challenge in court and that “litigation is not needed to settle the claim.”
The former St. Charles student says the priest fondled him three times between November and December of 1969, when he was 14. The first time was in Marshall’s office with another student present, who was also fondled; the next two times, he says, he was alone in the showers after basketball practice.
Holland recalls having told his father, a Polish-born nickel miner, about the incidents in January 1970, and the two confronted St. Charles’ principal, Rev. Anthony Lococo, with the allegations.
“My father told him what happened to me, and Father Lococo said, ‘Well, other teachers I’ve talked to said your son has a vivid imagination’ . . . so he turns it around to make me look like the bad guy,” says Holland, who has been on medication for depression since the mid-1990s, when he first sought psychological counselling.
“I don’t know if he believed me, but my father said (when they left Lococo’s office), ‘Just go to school, learn and don’t be a miner.’ ”
The assaults stopped after his father’s visit, Holland says. He didn’t discuss the matter again for nearly 30 years, when he told his psychologist about the molestation, in late 1997 or early 1998. The doctor suggested Holland go to the police, which he did.
Somewhere along the way, the Basilians heard of Holland’s experiences with Marshall. The order, however, would not comment on how it became aware of the allegations.
But what is known is the $21,000 cheque appeared after Holland had filed his sexual abuse complaint in July 1998.
Sudbury police would not confirm a complaint was made. However, a 2002 letter from a Sudbury assistant Crown attorney to Holland, who wanted to reopen the matter, referred to allegations the former St. Charles student raised with police “from many years ago.” The letter, written by counsel Len Walker, stated that the police officer who originally took the Sudbury man’s information, Sgt. Leslie McCloskey, still believed there was insufficient evidence to justify charges.
It’s also known that the Basilians obtained a Dec. 10, 1998 opinion from the Toronto law firm Miller Thomson of damages a court would find in a successful suit against Marshall — even though Holland had made no move to sue. The opinion took into consideration “the fact that Fr. Marshall would likely admit the instances complained of” and concluded Holland would be entitled to damages in the range of $15,000 to $20,000.
The Basilians told the Star that Marshall left his missionary work in St. Lucia in 1996 and entered the Saint Luke Institute in Silver Springs, Md. The institute addresses psychological and spiritual problems such as depression, anxiety, compulsive dysfunctional behaviours (such as gambling or incurring excessive debt), alcohol and substance abuse and a wide range of sexual issues including sexual abuse and professional boundary violations of those who minister in the Catholic Church.
London-based clergy abuse lawyer Rob Talach says that, in general, Roman Catholic priests from religious orders such as the Basilians have greater freedom of movement than diocesan priests, who usually minister at churches within a defined region called a diocese.
“Many of their operations cross international borders,” says Talach of religious order clergy. He adds that that kind of movement can make locating all victims of an offender difficult in some cases.
“Instead of being transferred 50 kilometres to the next parish, he’s transferred 500 kilometres to the next country.”
Marshall travelled widely during his teaching career, according to information provided by Rosica.
The priest, who was ordained on June 29, 1951, did two stints of teaching math, religion and coaching basketball at Toronto’s St. Mike’s (1952-54 and 1957-58).
During the 1950s he also taught at Assumption College in Windsor, St. Thomas High School in Houston and St. Paul’s High School in Saskatoon.
He moved to Sudbury’s St. Charles College (1961-70), then to Ottawa to study (1970-71) before returning to St. Charles (1971-78). From there, the Montreal-born Marshall landed at St. Mary’s College in Sault Ste. Marie (1978-85), then returned to Windsor’s Holy Names High School (1985-89), and then left for missionary work in St. Lucia until he returned and entered the treatment centre. He was principal at the last three Canadian high schools.
Rosica describes Marshall as “not in the best of health” but cooperative with the Basilians and the legal authorities.
The order says that Marshall isn’t available for interviews.
In 2002, Holland tried unsuccessfully to sue the Sudbury District Catholic School Board and St. Charles College for $10,000. In his suit, Holland claimed Marshall’s abuse of him “disrupted and devastated” his life and caused him psychological distress that could cost more than $350,000 to treat.
The claim was dismissed, in part, because Holland had already received $30,000 from the Basilians and signed an agreement in 1999 to not pursue them in court. The Basilians’ lawyer also argued that St. Charles was under the aegis of the order, not the school board, at the time.
At that point, Holland thought his dealings with Marshall had hit a dead end, and he wondered if any other victims would come forward. He was heartened when the Windsor charges were laid and said he intends to file another complaint with the Sudbury police this week, possibly with a schoolmate from decades ago.
Even so, the single Holland says he doesn’t hate his abuser.
“I’m not angry. He had good qualities. He was a great math teacher. Yes, I have forgiven him, yes. I have to.”