B.C. Catholic church admits vicarious liability for boy’s sex abuse

Delta Optimist [Ladner, British Columbia, Canada]

January 31, 2024

By Jeremy Hainsworth

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver denies institutional problems protecting sexually abusive priests

Warning: This story contains disturbing details of sexual abuse.

The Archdiocese of Vancouver has admitted in court documents sexual abuse of a man by a priest and a Christian Brother and its vicarious liability for that but denied negligence for acting in any way that could attract legal punitive damages.

An unnamed man alleging sexual abuse by two Roman Catholic priests is suing the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver (RCAV), a Corporation Sole, the Catholic Independent Schools of Vancouver (CISVA) and the estates of two men.

In documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Oct. 23, 2020, John Doe alleges that North Vancouver Holy Trinity Parish pastor Father John Kilty, now dead, committed multiple acts of sexual assault and battery on him when he was six.

In a further amended response to civil claim filed on Dec. 13, the church stated the plaintiff was a student at the school but denied he was a parishioner at the church. The church said Kilty was an ordained priest of the archdiocese at all material times and served as parish pastor from 1948-1982.

The man further alleged Raymond Clavin, whose status is unknown, committed similar acts. The suit said Clavin was a former Christian Brothers pupil and coach, teacher or employee of CISVA.

“At all times material to the abuse, the RCAV and/or the CISVA were complicit in a culture of entrenched clericalism that enabled perpetrators of sexual abuse to continue to commit their grievous crimes, and wherein witnesses, complainants and whistleblowers were silenced,” the suit said.

The suit alleges Kilty psychologically groomed and manipulated the plaintiff, groped and touched him, drugged him and removed his clothes, among other allegations.

The suit alleges Clavin threatened to harm the boy, removed the plaintiff’s clothes and performed and forced sexual acts.   

The suit alleges events took place in 1974 or 1975.

The archdiocese has denied it knew or ought to have known Kilty and Clavin posed a risk to male students. It also denied it failed to take steps to prevent the harm.

The plaintiff’s claim also asserted there was an operational culture at the school and parish that allowed Kilty and Clavin to sexually abuse male children.
The archdiocese also denied that claim.

“If the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff as alleged or at all, it acted in accordance with that duty, and in a manner commensurate with the standard of care applicable in the circumstances,” state court documents.

The archdiocese denied it was wilfully blind, reckless or negligent and that it did nothing that caused or contributed to the alleged abuse occurring.

As an alternative argument, the church asserted that, if the plaintiff suffered injury, loss or damage, which the church denied, it is because he failed to mitigate any such damages.

Those, the response said, include:

  • failing to take counselling or other treatment;
  • failing to take advice of medical or other health practitioners;
  • failing to adhere to a treatment plan;
  • engaging in activities that impeded his recovery; and,
  • failing to seek alternative employment, make arrangements with employers or retain.

In a further alternative argument, the church response suggested if the plaintiff suffered any losses they were due to previous or subsequent issues involving the plaintiff “or are attributable to congenital defects.”

Archdiocese action

The RCAV has not shied away from past abuses by priests against members of their flocks.

The archdiocese said in a report updated in 2020 that a review of files of Catholic clergy sexual abuse in archdiocese had uncovered 36 cases, most involving minors.

Kilty was one of those named priests.

The names of Roman Catholic priests believed to have been involved in the sexual abuse of minors were being turned over to non-Catholic investigators, the archdiocese said.

A trial in the case is set for 19 days in New Westminster Supreme Court starting Feb. 5.