Catholic diocese admits liability in sex assault case involving Kamloops priest

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  A lawyer for the corporate entity that is the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Kamloops admits that his client is vicariously liable for sex assaults committed by a priest more than 40 years ago.

Vancouver Sun

Updated: October 9, 2019

Keith Fraser

Rosemary Anderson is in the middle of a lawsuit alleging that she was sexually abused by Father Erlindo Molon when she was a teacher in the mid-1970s. CHAD HIPOLITO / POSTMEDIA

The Catholic diocese in Kamloops is admitting liability at the civil trial involving a priest accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a school teacher more than 40 years ago.

On Wednesday, John Hogg, a lawyer for the corporate entity identified as the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Kamloops, made the admission of vicarious liability by the defendant diocese for the conduct of Father Erlindo Molon, the priest in question.

Hogg had been pressed for his position on the case by a lawyer for Rosemary Anderson, who claims that Molon sexually assaulted her between 70 and 100 times in 1976 and 1977, while she was employed as a teacher at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help school in Kamloops.

He told B.C. Supreme Court Justice David Crossin that he had made a similar admission when the Vancouver trial opened on Monday and in a letter to the plaintiff’s lawyer in August.

The scope of the liability remains in issue as Hogg is expected to challenge Anderson in cross-examination on the timeframe and number of attacks that occurred in the priest’s rectory and Anderson’s apartment.

Molon, who is 88 years old and suffers from dementia and lives in a care home in Kingston, was initially named as a defendant in the case with his litigation guardian, the Ontario Public Guardian and Trustee, filing court documents denying the allegations. But neither Molon nor any lawyers acting on his behalf have shown up at the trial.

Also at issue is the involvement of then-Bishop Adam Exner, who Anderson claims was grossly negligent in his handling of the matter.

Hogg made it clear in court Wednesday that he will argue that Exner himself, who served as Archbishop of Vancouver from 1991 to 2004 and is not named as a defendant, was not negligent during the course of his duties as Molon’s superior. Exner is expected to testify in court next week.

“No liability of any kind admitted as against Bishop Exner,” Hogg told the judge. “Bishop Exner is not a defendant, end of story.”

The judge also ruled that evidence that indicated Molon got a 17-year-old girl pregnant around the same time as the incidents involving Anderson was admissible despite objections from Hogg that it was hearsay evidence and prejudicial.

Anderson had testified that when she went to confession heard by another priest after the incidents involving Molon, the priest told her that Molon had become involved with the teen.

The judge said the evidence was admissible not for the truth of the statement, but merely to allow Anderson to argue that it had a psychological impact on her life.

On Wednesday, Anderson, 70, continued her testimony and described the impact of the attacks on her life.

Under questioning from her lawyer, Sandra Kovacs, she said she applied for medical school but in the end chose to marry a man that she did not love.

Anderson, who later worked as a teacher at a Catholic school in North Vancouver and then worked for 20 years as a realtor in addition to having five children, is claiming that the sexual abuse by Molon materially changed the direction of her life, and absent the abuse, there was a real possibility she would have become a doctor.

Asked by Kovacs to comment overall on the impact of the alleged abuse, Anderson said: “It’s been very traumatic and damaging and corrosive. It’s taken so much from me.”

Anderson, who remains a practicing Catholic despite what happened to her, is also seeking unspecified punitive and aggravated damages as well as damages for pain and suffering and loss of past and future earnings.

Hogg began his cross-examination of Anderson on Wednesday afternoon and is expected to continue on Thursday.

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