Sudbury Victim has Harsh Words for Church

April 14, 2016

By: Harold Carmichael, The Sudbury Star

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The victim of a now-dead priest he calls a "serial molester" had harsh words for the Catholic Church after settling his lawsuit in Sudbury on Monday.

The victim, identified only as P.J.J., issued the statement following an out-of-court settlement with the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie.

"This five-year ordeal has cemented my thoughts that this church from the top down is not truly interested in action "¦ only hollow words of apology to placate the masses," he wrote in a statement released by Beckett Litigation Lawyers of London, Ont.

"If they were truly repentant I would call for them to immediately defrock the pervert collars (I cannot bring myself to ever use the term priest or father), and then offer all the support required to assist the victims. This would also mean to stop defending the convicted collars in litigation immediately.

"These moves would make the church much more acceptable to victims."

The victim alleged in the $3-million suit he was sexually abused by Father John Edward Sullivan when he served as an altar boy in Sudbury more than four decades ago. P.J.J., now 62, alleged pain and suffering, emotional and/or mental distress, and aggravated damages.

Details of the settlement were not made public.

Sullivan, who at one time served as chaplain for the long-closed Falconbridge Canadian Forces Base near Hanmer, is a convicted sex offender. He died last month.

A Superior Court jury trial was to have started Monday in Sudbury, but it was cancelled after the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie fired its lawyer.

Lawyer Robert Talach of Beckett Litigation Lawyers in London, Ont., said that led to the settlement.

"The church switched lawyers on Wednesday night ... It really was a game changer in the sense (that P.J.J.) would have to agree to a six-month to one-year delay or have to settle. Their negotiating position was strengthened by that. He had to make a decision if he wanted to ignore (the delay) and put it to where he wanted it to be."

In his statement, P.J.J., was critical of how the church handled the lawsuit and how it treats victims who have been sexually abused by priests.

"My case really demonstrated the worst that can happen to a victim," he wrote. "They fought tooth and nail to prevent our success in delay tactics and dirty moves such as firing lawyers days before the trial. They also hired a private investigator to uncover stuff.

"I felt put down and demeaned at every turn in their moves. Not once did I hear an apology of words that they understood what I was going through or what I went through at the hands of that serial molester. And to find out that multiple bishops hid his abuse by moving him to new parishes where he continued his abuse of many dozens of innocent boys without telling the congregations is a huge injustice."

P.J.J. encouraged other victims to come forward, since "this is the only way to convince this church to actually change their cruel and vicious defence tactics.

"As my son's analogy is bang on, I will repeat it here. If a school board had many teachers molesting children and did the exact same tactics that the church used (defending the teachers, moving them to other schools, and hiding the truth), the outcry would be huge.

"Why is this church allowed to get away with this? It's time for a Canadian spotlight."

P.J.J. said the settlement won't help him heal, "but knowing that I helped put him in jail and then later successfully fought the church in litigation will go a long way in the healing process as proof that a 14-year-old boy was finally able to cry out about the abuse and cover-ups in a voice that was heard.

"Just like David and Goliath, I can now stand strong."

Talach said had the case not been settled, the trial would still have proceeded even though Sullivan died on Easter Sunday. The trial had been scheduled for two weeks.

Sullivan, 90, who retired in 1989, had been living with his sister in Montreal.

Talach said he would have called 13 witnesses.

P.J.J., who no longer lives in Greater Sudbury, said Sullivan sexually abused him when he served as his altar boy

Beckett Litigation Lawyers has been involved in lawsuits against Sullivan, former Sudbury priest Bernard Cloutier and the diocese. Cloutier was convicted in 2005 of sexually assaulting four boys in the 1970s.

Sullivan, who was ordained in 1958, was convicted in 1992 of molesting three brothers in the late 1960s while chaplain at the base. He convicted in 1990 of similar crimes against boys in several communities including Sault Ste. Marie, Wawa and North Bay.

The lawsuit stated the diocese was Sullivan's employer at the time and had an obligation to protect its parishioners. "Sullivan also owed a duty of care to the plaintiff by the nature of his position as a parish priest," the suit stated.

The lawsuit alleged Sullivan used his position of "ecclesiastical authority" to develop a close and personal relationship with the plaintiff.

"Sullivan used his position as a parish priest of the Diocese, which was a position of authority, to develop a close personal relationship with the Plaintiff when he was young. The relationship that Sullivan developed with the Plaintiff, under the guise of a priest-practitioner relationship, allowed Sullivan an opportunity to be alone with the Plaintiff and to exert total control over him, prey upon him and sexually abuse him."

The lawsuit alleged the acts that Sullivan molested P.J.J. and engaged in "in a pattern of behaviour which was intended to make the Plaintiff feel that he was special in the eyes of Sullivan, the Church and God."

Talach said that while the P.J.J. lawsuit is now resolved, there are another five or six victims still seeking damages from Sullivan and the Diocese.

He said the list continues to grow.

"There may be up to 20 (victims who could file lawsuits)," said the lawyer.

Talach said the victims are from all over Ontario including Wawa, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Sudbury and Midland.

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