A final settlement has been reached in a historical sexual abuse case involving a priest at a Sudbury Catholic school.
Father William Hodgson Marshall taught at St. Charles College in the 1960’s and 70s, where he molested at least seven young boys.
He was eventually convicted of sex crimes against 17 male victims.
One of Hodgson’s victims spoke about the impact the abuse had on him and finally having a resolution in a fight spanning over three decades.
In the mid-1980’s, Denis Beland started having health problems a man in his thirties shouldn’t have.
“These sudden and dramatic weight losses and pneumonias. The sorts of things that you wouldn’t expect in a healthy person.” said Beland.
At first, doctors were stumped, but eventually it became clear, it was all being triggered by memories of the sexual abuse he endured at St. Charles College, when he was 12-years-old.
Abuse suffered at the hands of a priest.
“This is a very ugly crime. And these are the sorts of things that people don’t want to talk about, and that people don’t want to hear about.” said Beland.
His case isn’t that unusual.
Childhood abuse victims often repress the trauma so deep down inside that it doesn’t resurface until well into adulthood.
For Beland, that trauma came back so violently, he was forced to go on permanent disability.
He’s now 61 and hasn’t worked in 25 years.
Beland was one of at least 17 known victims of Father William Marshall, who taught and even served as principal at St. Charles College during the 1960s and 70s.
When Beland tried to report Marshall’s crimes, he was expelled from the school.
“It was like hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, but they did. They did see that stuff and they did nothing about it.” said Beland.
After a conviction in 2011 sent Marshall to jail for 16 months, civil litigation was launched against the Basilian Fathers of Toronto, which ran St. Charles during Marshall’s time.
Beland’s lawyer was Robert Talach, who specializes in sexual abuse claims against the Catholic Church.
“These cases, though dealing with history, are important for shaping the future. How institutions view their responsibility, how the conduct themselves, when these issues arise.” said Talach.
In a settlement reached this week, Beland was awarded $950,000, an amount that pales in comparison to what his earnings would have been had he been able to keep working. He says the lawsuit was about more than just money.
“I believe that collectively we’ve made the world a better place. If something does happen to a kid, cause after all, that’s who we’re trying to protect, he should know that he can go to any of those responsibility figures, whoever they may be.” said Beland.
As for his faith, Beland remains a Catholic and even sent his children to St. Charles College, but he has some words for the church.
“I think the church has to look inward, look at itself, and you know they need to make changes. But, so far, the changes seem to come very, very slowly.” said Beland.
He now has some closure in his decades-long fight, along with a modest settlement, but he says he also has the greatest reward, the vindication that comes with telling his story and being believed.