A priest and former Windsor Catholic high school principal serving a jail sentence for sex crimes is being sued for more than $2 million by a former student.
And 17 other victims are contemplating civil suits against Rev. William Hodgson Marshall and the Basilian religious order, their lawyers said Tuesday.
Kenneth Hills, who filed a statement of claim Monday in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice seeking more than $2 million in damages, says Marshall molested him when he was a student at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto in the early 1950s.
The assaults began when Hills was a member of the midget basketball team and Marshall was the coach, according to the statement of claim.
Hills, an author and retired teacher, said he’s suing because the Basilians failed to protect him and others from Marshall.
His lawyer, Simona Jellinek said she is representing two other of Marshall’s victims who will file multimillion-dollar claims within the next few weeks.
Hills said his father died when he was seven and Marshall, a friend of his devout Roman Catholic family, exploited a position of power and authority by abusing him as a teenager.
London lawyer Rob Talach said he represents 15 victims who plan to file lawsuits against the elderly priest.
One victim, Patrick McMahon, 43, of Windsor, said Marshall assaulted him between 1981 and 1985 beginning when McMahon was a young teenager.
McMahon said the priest was a longtime friend of his family and a regular visitor to their home.
“The full extent of Marshall’s crimes and the Basilian’s crimes aren’t really exposed yet and I think they should be,” McMahon said. “I don’t see any other way to achieve that objective other than through the courts.”
Marshall, 88, was sentenced in June to two years in jail after pleading guilty to 17 counts of indecent assault over a period of more than 30 years. Sixteen of the victims were boys Marshall abused as a teacher and coach at schools in Windsor, Sudbury and Toronto. One victim was female. The youngest victim was seven.
McMahon was the first to complain to police about the abuse.
“The Basilians are prepared to take Marshall upon completion of his sentence back into their fold and provide a place for him to live out his retirement, but what about the victims who are struggling day by day?” Talach said.
In the 1950s, Marshall taught at Assumption College in Windsor and was later principal there and at Holy Names high school.
Hills said he would like the Catholic hierarchy to adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward pedophilia and defrock any clergy member who commits the crime.
“I’ve spent most of my life locking it away and you can’t really grow and live a proper life when you bottle yourself up that way,” McMahon said. “It’s not the kind of thing you can ever do. I’ve had a lifetime of depression.”
In the criminal case, many of Marshall’s victims described struggling with depression, addictions, trouble holding down jobs, failed marriages and strained relationships with friends and family. Many said they’ve attempted suicide and some have criminal records. Many have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Rev. Timothy Scott, a spokesperson for the Basilians, said his order acknowledges Marshall’s actions were criminal when he was acting as a Basilian priest and they will deal with liability issues as they present themselves.
Scott said the Basilians have no plans to defrock Marshall.
“If he were younger, such a step would be contemplated. Once he completes his sentence we will provide a place for him to live his remaining days but of course he will never function in any way shape or form as a priest for the rest of his life.”