A B.C. woman alleging months of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest four decades ago says the experience caused psychological injuries that have altered the trajectory of her career and personal life.
Rosemary Anderson, 70, alleges that she was sexually assaulted by Rev. Erlindo Molon “75 to 100 times” in the late 1970s, when she worked as an elementary schoolteacher at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Kamloops.
On Monday, an eight-day trial opened in B.C. Supreme Court with arguments over whether the church is involved at all. Her lawyer argued that the case is about not only the actions of the priest but also the inadequate actions of an institution that failed to protect her, while the defence countered that it was a “clear-cut, simple, little, civil, sexual assault case.”
Ms. Anderson’s lawyer, Sandra Kovacs, told the court her client decided to bring this litigation to expose the truth and “bring some justice after 40 years of suffering in silence.”
According to a notice of civil claim filed in December, 2016, Ms. Anderson sought spiritual advice and counselling from Father Molon in September, 1976, after her father’s death. Father Molon used his position of power to exploit her “repeatedly [performing] sexual acts upon the plaintiff innumerable times, including intercourse” over eight months, the claim says.
Ms. Anderson disclosed the sexual assaults to Adam Exner, then-bishop of the Diocese of Kamloops, in the spring of 1977, but they “continued and escalated in aggression” until that May, when the bishop arranged for Father Molon to be transferred to a new posting in Ontario, according to the claim.
Ms. Kovacs said Monday that “people” had approached then-bishop Exner in early 1976 to report concerns about Father Molon’s sexual involvement with several parishioners, and that he concluded, in his own words, that he “had to do something about this now.”
Yet, Father Molon was permitted “to stay on, with full faculties, without restriction,” Ms. Kovacs said.
Ms. Anderson, who has consented to her name being published, says she has suffered psychological injury as a result, becoming suspicious, tense and hypersensitive. These injuries have undermined her ability to pursue educational and career opportunities, including ambitions to become a medical doctor, which have resulted in a loss of earnings, she says.
The trial is expected to run about two weeks, with testimony from expert witnesses, Ms. Anderson and now-Archbishop Exner. Father Molon, who is legally incapacitated and in Ontario, is not involved in the case. Father Molon was never charged with anything and has denied the allegations in a written response.
On Monday, the two sides argued about the admissibility of an expert report by Thomas Doyle, an American Catholic priest, that delves into the inner workings of the Catholic Church, its history and hierarchy, and how it generally responds to sexual abuse.
Ms. Kovacs said the report provides important context that is relevant to her client’s case, while lawyer John Hogg, representing the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Kamloops, said Mr. Doyle is an outspoken advocate for victims of clerical sexual abuse with a “clearly developed bias."
Justice David Crossin said the “bias in the report is palpable" and that expert witnesses must remain objective. However, he agreed that portions of the report could be entered as evidence, including parts that describe the Roman Catholic Church, its hierarchy and legal system and its historical responses to complaints of sexual impropriety.