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Lawsuit by victim of Catholic priest should have a trial date soon

When he was 12, man was molested by Fr. William Hodgson Marshall
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St. Charles College as the school looks today. A 61-year-old man who says he was the victim of sexual assaults by Fr. William Hodgson Marshall at the school in the late 1960s is suing the Sudbury Catholic District School Board and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie, among others. (File)

A $5 million lawsuit by one of the molestation victims of a Catholic priest in Sudbury will be back in court this fall to set a trial date.

The victim, now 61, was just 12 years old when he attended St. Charles College in the late 1960s, where Fr. William Hodgson Marshall was a teacher and sports coach. The sexual assaults lasted for more than a year, and, in the statement of claim, the victim says he was expelled from the school for reporting the abuse to school officials.

Marshall was convicted in 2011 of indecent assault of 15 boys and one girl, and of sexually assaulting another boy. Six of his victims are from Sudbury, while most of the others are from Toronto or Windsor. He died in 2014.

Named in the lawsuit are Marshall, the Sudbury Catholic District School Board, the Basilian Fathers, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie and Bishop Ronald Fabbro, a former head of the Basilians.

None of the allegations have been proved in court. But the suit says the school board, the diocese and the Basilians failed in their duty to protect the victim and ensure he was in a safe environment.

It alleges the Basilians failed to investigate Marshall when complaints first emerged about him, didn't remove him from his post and covered up his actions.
The suit alleges the Basilians ignored warnings and complaints from parents and staff at St. Charles, where Marshall was known as “Happy Hands Marshall” for his questionable behaviour.

“The Basilians took no steps to stop the behaviour or protect the plaintiff,” the suit alleges.

The victim says in the suit that he continues to suffer from the affects of the abuse, which has had a devastating effect on his mental health, job prospects and ability to form healthy relationships.

All parties in the suit deny the accusations. In the statement of defence, the lawyer for the Basilians denies they knew what Marshall was doing or that they covered anything up. It also says the victim is overstating the damage Marshall's attacks have had, and that other factors in his life play a role.

The school board also rejects the idea it is responsible, saying the Basilians ran the school and were responsible for monitoring its staff at the school.

The diocese had a similar response, saying Marshall was a Basilian and not a priest of the diocese.

“The diocese was not reasonably in any position to investigate the extent or severity of any such conduct as alleged by the plaintiff, or to render assistance to the plaintiff or others,” the statement of defence reads.

The case returns to court Sept. 6, when a 2018 trial date is expected to be set.


Darren MacDonald

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