Victims of Disgraced Windsor Priest Launch New $3M Lawsuits against Catholic Church

December 9, 2011

By: Craig Pearson, The Windsor Star

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WINDSOR, Ont. -- Two sexual assault victims of convicted pedophile Fr. William Hodgson Marshall, who earned the nickname Happy Hands in the 1950s for his tendency to touch students, launched separate $3 million lawsuits Thursday against the Basilian priest.

The civil suit by Patrick McMahon, 43, also names the Basilian Fathers of Toronto and Catholic Bishop Ronald Fabbro, alleging neither did anything to prevent Marshall from abusing children.

The suit by Jerry Boyle, 71, also names the Basilian Fathers and Fabbro, as well as the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of London.

Marshall, now 89, was sentenced June 9 in a Windsor court to two years in prison for molesting children. He pleaded guilty to 17 counts of indecent assault between 1952 and 1985 in Windsor, Sudbury and Toronto where the Basilian taught.

“I am here today for justice,” said Boyle at a press conference, where he divulged how Marshall started touching him in a shower after basketball practice when he was 14 and how it escalated from there over the next two years. “I have had my life changed by a protected villan that should have been removed from society before I was ever exposed to his evil desires. They relocated him to Windsor after Marshall assaulted students at St. Mikes in Toronto.”

Boyle said he still has nightmares about the incidents. He said the abuse enters his thoughts every day, and that he went through two divorces because he has ongoing problems with intimacy.

The father of two and grandfather of four who now works as a realtor in Cambridge said he holds the church and school board equally responsible — he was a student at Assumption High where Marshall began preying on him.

“I looked for help and it was denied,” Boyle said at the press conference, noting that he confided in another priest who only blamed the abuse on the youngster. “There were at least four other priests that witnessed his assaults on me and would not help. They saw him sexually assaulting me in the shower after basketball practices.”

Boyle said priests saw the assaults take place in classrooms and in Marshall’s private room, but nobody stepped in to stop it.

Speaking at the same press conference, McMahon told a similar tale of abuse and of a life spent trying to escape the nightmares.

“This is a horror story, as this man Fr. Hod Marshall and others like him walked amongst us, revered as men of sacrifice, wisdom, authority and power,” McMahon said. “All the while stalking the most innocent children they could find, moving from city to city, provided with an inexhaustible supply of new victims while leaving accusations, suspicions and broken lives concealed behind them.”McMahon did not suffer abuse at the hands of Marshall because of school or his church, however, but because he was a long-time family friend.

McMahon said the abuse started when he was 13 on a family ski trip.

“My family took a ski vacation in Sault Ste. Marie and stayed in the Basilian’s residence at St. Mary’s College with him,” said McMahon, who is now married with two daughters under the age of 10 and who was laid off from his financial job last week. “He gave me the special suite on the first floor, leaving the rest of my family upstairs and unaware. He wuold get in my bed, he would get in my clothes, he would do things I can;t stand up here and tell you about. He would visit us in Windsor and stay in our home. He would come to my bed again at night and take my clothes off. I would lie there frozen like a statue doing nothing other than what he told me to.”

McMahon’s father Bob fought back tears at the press conference as he heard his son outline the crimes of the priest and former family friend.

Robert Talach, the lawyer representing Boyle and McMahon, said besides financial compensation they also want the Basilians to officially fire Marshall.

“Almost as shocking as Marshall’s crimes and the Basilian’s complicity is the fact that despite all he has done, the Basilians refuse to fire him,” said Talach, who predicted that more victims will soon come forward with civil suits. “They are either with the victims or with the abusers. You can’t be with both.”

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