Sudbury civil sexual abuse case settlement: lawyer, victim speak out
April 5, 2016
|In the early 1990s, Sudbury priest John Edward Sullivan was found guilty of sexual crimes against several altar boys. Over the Easter weekend, Sullivan died at the age of 90. His death comes a week before a civil lawsuit launched by one of his victims in Sudbury was to get underway in court. Yesterday the $3 million lawsuit against Sullivan and the diocese was supposed to begin at the Sudbury courthouse. But instead, it was settled out of court.|
|In the early 1990s, Sudbury priest John Edward Sullivan was found guilty of sexual crimes against several alter boys. Over the Easter weekend, Sullivan died at the age of 90. He died a week before a civil lawsuit launched by one of his victims in Sudbury was to get underway in court. |
The man who suffered sexual abuse from a northern Ontario Catholic priest was the victim of a man given "nine lives" by the Roman Catholic Church, his lawyer says.
In the early 1990s, John Edward Sullivan plead guilty to sexually abusing boys during his career as a Catholic priest.
He served about two years in jail for his crimes.
More than 20 years after his conviction, one of Sullivan's victims launched a civil case in Sudbury looking for $3 million in financial compensation.
A week before the civil trial, Sullivan died at the age of 90.
But the victim's lawyer, Rob Talach, said the priest's death did not affect this case.
"The evidence of Father Sullivan had been captured in a video examination well over two years ago. He is as guilty as guilty can be," he said.
"There's no money in his pocket. In most cases these priests have no ability [to pay towards a lawsuit] because their entire life they've worked for the church, which is not a high paying job. The case here is really about the diocese. Its responsibility."
Talach would not say how much money was paid to the victim.
The victim, known as PJJ in court documents, said Sullivan started abusing him when he was a 14-year-old altar boy.
The diocese of Sault Ste Marie, which oversees Sudbury, had no comment on the case. Father Jean Vezina confirmed that the lawsuit had been settled out of court. He told CBC News the bishop was on holidays which is why they weren't speaking.
A case 'of nine lives'
Talach, who is a partner with Beckett personal injury lawyers in London, Ont., has been representing victims of sexual assault for more than 10 years.
He said he has had other cases in which priests or witnesses died before testimonies could be taken or abusers could be held accountable. He's also had cases in which the abuser died in the middle of legal action.
Part of the issue is that victims often don't come forward to launch civil suits until decades after the abuse happened.
Many of the men wait until their late 50s before taking action, Talach continued. There is no time limit in bringing forward a case of sexual abuse in Ontario.
Sullivan was like "a cat with nine lives," according to the lawyer. He was reported to the church in 1961, in 1973, and in 1979, Talach said.
'The worst that can happen to a victim'
The settlement appears to change little for the victim, PJJ, who released the following comments through his lawyer:
"This five-year ordeal has cemented my thoughts that this church — from the top down — is not truly interested in action. [There are] only hollow words of apology to placate the masses. If they were truly repentant, I would call for them to … offer ALL the support required to assist the victims."
PJJ said his case "really demonstrated the worst that can happen to a victim ... I felt put down and demeaned at every turn. 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."
To find out that "multiple bishops hid his abuse by moving him to new parishes where he continued his abuse of many ... innocent boys without telling the congregations is a huge injustice," he continued.
"I strongly encourage those souls who were abused and haven't come forward to ponder doing so."
PJJ said he doesn't believe the settlement will bring him healing, "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," he wrote.
"Just like David and Goliath, I can now stand strong."
Sexual abuse of PJJ happened between 1967-1968 at Canadian Forces Station Falconbridge.
In early 1990s Sullivan was convicted for the abuse of more than a dozen boys, including PJJ.
In 2010, PJJ and his two brothers, who were also abused, begin civil litigation.
As the two brothers had settled, PJJ's was the last case that was supposed go to trial on April 4.
On Wednesday, March 30, the week before the trial, Talach was given notice that the diocese would be switching lawyers, which meant the trial could be adjourned at least six months to one year.
PJJ decided to settle now instead of waiting for a new trial date.