Catholic diocese admits liability in sex assaults

VANCOUVER — The Catholic diocese in Kamloops is admitting liability at the civil trial involving a priest accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a school teacher more than 40 years ago.

On Wednesday, John Hogg, a lawyer for the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Kamloops, made the admission of vicarious liability by the defendant diocese for the conduct of Rev. Erlindo Molon, the priest in question.

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Hogg had been pressed for his position on the case by a lawyer for Rosemary Anderson, who said that Molon sexually assaulted her between 70 and 100 times in 1976 and 1977, while she was employed as a teacher at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help school in Kamloops.

Hogg told B.C. Supreme Court Justice David Crossin that he had made a similar admission when the Vancouver trial opened on Monday and in a letter to the plaintiff’s lawyer in August.

The scope of the liability remains at issue. Hogg is expected to challenge Anderson in cross-examination on the time frame and number of attacks that she said occurred in the priest’s rectory and Anderson’s apartment.

Molon, now 88, suffers from dementia and lives in a care home in Kingston, Ont.

He was initially named as a defendant in the case with his litigation guardian, the Ontario Public Guardian and Trustee, filing court documents denying the allegations. But neither Molon nor any lawyers acting on his behalf have shown up at the trial.

Also at issue is the involvement of Adam Exner, the bishop Anderson claims was grossly negligent in his handling of the matter.

Hogg indicated Wednesday that he will argue Exner, who served as archbishop of Vancouver from 1991 to 2004 and is not named as a defendant, was not negligent during the course of his duties as Molon’s superior. Exner is expected to testify in court next week.

“No liability of any kind admitted as against Bishop Exner,” Hogg told the judge. “Bishop Exner is not a defendant, end of story.”

The judge ruled that evidence indicating Molon impregnated 17-year-old girl about the same time as the incidents involving Anderson was admissible, despite objections from Hogg that it was hearsay evidence and prejudicial.

Anderson, who remains a practicing Catholic, is seeking unspecified punitive and aggravated damages as well as damages for pain and suffering and loss of past and future earnings.

Hogg began his cross-examination of Anderson on Wednesday and is expected to continue with it today.

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