A LAWSUIT filed almost four years ago against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kamloops in British Columbia ended this week with the victim of an abusive priest being awarded more than $800,000.
According to this report, Archbishop Emeritus Adam Exner, above right, had ample evidence that Father Erlindo Molon, left, was taking advantage of his female parishioners.
But he chose to turn a blind eye to the sexual misconduct of the man he described as “popular” and a “playboy priest” who told him “I’m only human” when his predatory behaviour was challenged.
One of Molon’s victims was a young teacher named Rosemary Anderson, and it was she who sued the diocese in 2016. The case ended with her being awarded $844,140 by BC Supreme Court judge, Justice E David Crossin, who said:
The diocese failed the plaintiff profoundly in a moment of great need. Bishop Exner was aware of troubling rumours about Fr Molon as early as the spring of 1976.
The award to Anderson included $275,000 for pain and suffering, $250,000 for punitive damages against Molon, $150,000 for punitive damages against the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Kamloops and $125,000 for loss of past income.
In a statement, Anderson said she was grateful of the court’s conclusion about her exploitation at the hands of the priest but felt the judge missed an opportunity to address what she perceived to be the disrespectful conduct of the Diocese’s lawyer.
While the court accepted that the abuse caused her severe trauma, the damages award failed to recognize the extent of the harm and the financial losses she suffered as a result of those injuries, she said.
In particular, the award of $125,000 for lost income is but a token award that does not reflect the totality of the harm caused. In this regard, I am considering the merits of an appeal.
Anderson said she hopes the punitive damages against the defendant will encourage the Catholic Church to recognise the error of its ways.
Her lawyer, Sandra Kovacs, said in a statement that it took a tremendous amount of strength and courage for Anderson to proceed with litigation against such a powerful and well-funded institution as the church.
I commend Ms. Anderson for her bravery: she has done a service to countless other victims of clergy sexual abuse, her case being the first adult victim case involving Catholic clergy in Canada.
Anderson, 70, was 26 at the time of the abuse. She’d traveled to the Interior community in 1976 to take up a job as an elementary school teacher at Our Lady of Perpetual Help school.
Her father had recently died and, whilst grieving, she sought comfort, guidance and care from Molon. Instead the priest took advantage of her and repeatedly sexually assaulted her over the course of several months in the rectory and in her home.
In his ruling on the case, Justice Crossin found that the abuse suffered by Anderson was protracted and ongoing and her encounters with Molon:
Degrading and highly invasive. Fr Molon occupied a position of trust and authority. He abused that trust to exploit the plaintiff repeatedly over months. When confronted with this misconduct, the only evidence before the court suggests he was wholly indifferent and dismissive of the ramifications of what he was doing.
Regarding Exner, he said:
He knew that F. Molon’s conduct put the spiritual and psychological well-being of his parishioners at risk. He chose not to act.
Exner, now 90, testified in the trial and described Molon as a “playboy priest” who was rumoured to have had sexual encounters with numerous parishioners. The court also heard hearsay evidence suggesting Molon repeatedly raped one of those women.
Exner said he confronted Molon about the rumours in 1976, but Molon just laughed it off and said “I’m only human.”
The archbishop testified that he chose not to do anything about it because Molon was popular and there was a desperate need for a priest.
Exner also acknowledged in court that he failed in his duties to lead and protect his parishioners.
The judge wrote:
The bishop recognizes now, and I believe recognized at the relevant time, there was a right path and there was a wrong path concerning his engagement with Fr Molon and the plaintiff. In my view, he chose the wrong path.