American forensic psychiatrist Dr. Robert Toborowsky (right) continues his testimony at the Mount Cashel civil trial, presided over by Justice Alphonsus Faour. — Photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram
Three of four John Does involved in the Mount Cashel civil trial in Newfoundland Supreme Court don’t suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), says an American psychiatrist testifying for the Catholic Church.
There were other mental diagnoses that Toborowsky ruled out in his opinions on the John Does’ cases. And in the case of a man who says his marriage and career were ruined, Toborowsky concluded there was an alcoholism disorder and recurrent depression, but didn’t link those problems directly to Mount Cashel.
Toborowsky spoke often during his two days of testimony about the weight of someone losing a parent at an early age.
But Toborowsky could not convince two men sitting in the courtroom Thursday he was right about the crux of his conclusions.
They were two of the John Does.
One of the men, a retired teacher, had success in life, but suffered continuous self-doubt and even had a flashback to Mount Cashel in his 2010 meeting with Toborowsky. He also told Toborowsky of fantasies of killing some of the Christian Brothers who abused him at Mount Cashel, but said he would not act on it.
The man said outside court that Toborowsky couldn’t draw proper conclusions from one meeting, and it isn’t accurate to blame the men’s troubles on causes other than Mount Cashel.
“Where is the real me? That was taken from me in Mount Cashel.
“I don’t know who this person would be,” he said, calling himself by name (which a publication ban prevents from disclosing.) “Who would he be?
“I would have liked to have met the real me — to see who I was. That will never be. My childhood was taken. That’s gone. You don’t hear much about that in (the courtroom).”
The other man said losing a parent is dramatic, especially for his family, which also sent girls to the Belvedere orphanage.
But he said the anger he struggled with in the military and that he eventually learned to manage is something he has to watch. That stems directly from abuse he suffered at Mount Cashel, the man said.
“It’s still here,” he said, pointing to his chest.
The John Does are the test cases representing about 60 claimants — all former orphanage residents — in a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corp. of St. John’s.
The claimants say the church should be held liable for the physical and sexual abuse they suffered during the 1940s to 1960s at the hands of certain members of the lay order Christian Brothers, who ran the orphanage.
However, the church — the sole defendant in the case after the Christian Brothers went bankrupt — contends it wasn’t directly involved in the Mount Cashel operations.
Toborowsky was originally hired by the Christian Brothers, who were a respondent in the lawsuit when the case was launched in 1999.
Church lawyer Chris Blom finished questioning Toborowsky Thursday, but former orphanage residents’ lawyer Will Hiscock will have to finish his cross-examination either by teleconference or by the doctor returning from Philadelphia, Pa., at a later date.
Hiscock led the doctor through a series of symptoms such as anger, depression, substance abuse and others that could be attributed to child sex abuse.
He also suggested that the criteria of PTSD Toborowsky applied to the men’s cases has more to do with symptoms of military combat than the symptoms presented by child sex abuse survivors.
The former orphanage boys also have psychological experts of their own who will testify.
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‘He was really in another mental state’
The Telegram (St. John’s Newfoundland)
Published on June 08, 2016
A psychiatrist testifying Wednesday at the Mount Cashel civil trial in Newfoundland Supreme Court said what happened in his meeting with a former orphanage resident is something he has only seen a few times in his career.
Philadelphia, Pa., Psychiatrist Dr. Robert Toborowsky awaits his turn on the witness stand at the Mount Cashel civil trial. — Photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram
The retired teacher is one of four test case John Does in the lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corp. of St. John’s.
The test cases represent 60 residents of the orphanage during the 1940s to early 1960s who say the Catholic Church should be held responsible for the physical and sexual abuse of boys by certain members of the lay order Christian Brothers.
The church contends it didn’t run the orphanage, and so is not responsible.
Toborowsky was originally hired by the Christian Brothers’ lawyer after the case was launched in 1999, but the Brothers are no longer defendants, as they have gone bankrupt.
After a contentions morning in which former orphanage residents’ lawyer Will Hiscock challenged the doctor’s experience with patients who were sexually abused as children, church lawyer Chris Blom was successful in his request to Justice Alphonsus Faour to have Toborowsky qualified as an expert witness.
Toborowsky met with all four John Does in 2010 and filed reports based on his opinions.
There are psychological testing and views from others yet to come as evidence.
Toborowsky said he had asked the retired teacher for a brief description of the abuse he says he suffered at Mount Cashel, and the man described a time in Grade 5 when he was falsely accused of cheating. For that, he said, a Christian Brother beat him with a wooden paddle.
“After beating him thusly and crying, he was placed between the brother’s legs,” Toborowsky said, adding that’s when the reaction happened to his recalling the physical abuse incident.
“This was fleeting. It could have been 120 seconds for all I know, but it was impressive because it was a true flashback.”
Toborowsky also noted the man has had a successful career and marriage, and seemed like a great guy, so his accomplishments are a contrast to the problems he reported with his self-image.
Wednesday ended without Toborowsky finishing his opinion on the man’s case.
But he did offer an opinion on another former resident — a retired military man who was expelled with the retired teacher at Christmastime 1955 when he was held by his throat by a Christian Brother for being late and his friend defended him by hitting the brother with a chair.
Based on what he said during the exam and such things as his enjoyment of everyday activities, that man, said Toborowsky, was not suffering any diagnosable psychiatric disorder that “can reasonably be traced to the sexual abuse he reported at Mount Cashel.
“I think this is significant — he completed the mental status examination with the following. ‘I am grateful that I am still alive, not a drunk, have enough to live on, a car to drive, enough to go on a holiday. Most of the world can’t do that. I consider myself very lucky.’”
Toborowsky hasn’t delved into the other two John Does’ cases yet.
But he said all four men have a common thread that can have a significant impact on lives — the loss of a parent at a young age can cause issues such as low self-esteem, substance abuse, lack of trust of others, anger, depression, inability to form and maintain relationships and other problems.
In the back of the courtroom, a man who said he was at Mount Cashel during the 1970s and was abused there listened intently. He has nothing to do with this case, but has dropped in from time to time.
Outside court, he hung his head for a while when asked by The Telegram if he agrees with the doctor’s views on children who lose a parent. His dad died when he was a boy.
“My mom, she had her own problems and issues. She couldn’t take care of me,” he said, his eyes wet.
“She just couldn’t take care of me and they figured Mount Cashel would be the best spot for me. If I hadn’t had to lose my parents at such an early age, I probably would have been given a better chance at life. I wouldn’t be coming here today.”