The Vancouver Sun
08 December 2011
BY CRAIG PEARSON, POSTMEDIA NEWS
WINDSOR, Ont. — Two sexual assault victims of a convicted Ontario priest launched separate $3-million lawsuits Thursday against the man, known in the 1950s as “Happy Hands” for his tendency to touch students.
The civil suit by Patrick McMahon, 43, against pedophile Rev. William Hodgson Marshall, also names the Basilian Fathers of Toronto and Catholic Bishop Ronald Fabbro. It alleges neither did anything to prevent Marshall from abusing children.
The suit by Jerry Boyle, 71, also names the Basilian Fathers and Fabbro, as well as the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of London.
Marshall, now 89, was sentenced June 9 in a Windsor court to two years in prison for molesting children. He pleaded guilty to 17 counts of indecent assault between 1952 and 1985 in Windsor, Sudbury and Toronto where the Basilian taught.
“I am here today for justice,” Boyle told a news conference, where he described how Marshall started touching him in a shower after basketball practice when he was 14 and how it escalated over the next two years. “I have had my life changed by a protected villain that should have been removed from society before I was ever exposed to his evil desires. They relocated him to Windsor after Marshall assaulted students at St. Mike’s in Toronto.”
Boyle said he still has nightmares about the incidents. He said the abuse enters his thoughts every day, and that he went through two divorces because he has problems with intimacy.
The father of two and grandfather of four who now works as a realtor in Cambridge, Ont., said he holds the church and school board equally responsible — he was a student at Assumption High School where Marshall began preying on him.
“I looked for help and it was denied,” Boyle said, noting that he confided in another priest who only blamed the abuse on the youngster. “There were at least four other priests that witnessed his assaults on me and would not help. They saw him sexually assaulting me in the shower after basketball practices.”
Boyle said priests saw the assaults take place in classrooms and in Marshall’s private room, but nobody stepped in to stop it.
Speaking at the same news conference, McMahon told a similar tale of abuse and of a life spent trying to escape the nightmares.
“This is a horror story, as this man, Father Hod Marshall, and others like him, walked amongst us, revered as men of sacrifice, wisdom, authority and power,” McMahon said. “All the while, stalking the most innocent children they could find, moving from city to city, provided with an inexhaustible supply of new victims while leaving accusations, suspicions and broken lives concealed behind them.”
McMahon did not suffer abuse at the hands of Marshall because of school or his church, however, but because he was a longtime family friend.
McMahon said the abuse started when he was 13 on a family ski trip.
“My family took a ski vacation in Sault Ste. Marie and stayed in the Basilian’s residence at St. Mary’s College with him,” said McMahon, who is now married, with two daughters under the age of 10 and who was laid off from his financial job last week. “He gave me the special suite on the first floor, leaving the rest of my family upstairs and unaware. He would get in my bed, he would get in my clothes, he would do things I can’t stand up here and tell you about. He would visit us in Windsor and stay in our home. He would come to my bed again at night and take my clothes off. I would lie there frozen like a statue doing nothing other than what he told me to.”
Robert Talach, the lawyer representing Boyle and McMahon, said besides financial compensation they also want the Basilians to officially fire Marshall.
Rev. Timothy Scott, Toronto-based spokesman for the Basilian Fathers, said though his order may request that Marshall be defrocked, only the Vatican has the power to do so. Either way, Scott said that Marshall will not perform any priestly duties for the rest of his life.
“On the day of Hod Marshall’s conviction, I spoke to the media — and the Basilian Fathers issued a statement — apologizing on behalf of the order for these terrible deeds, saying this never should have happened and pledging our support for the victims on their path toward healing,” Scott said. “That still holds true today. We’re going to do whatever we can to assist these people who have suffered immensely at his hands.”