Fifty-Year-Old Sex Abuse Scandal Hits St. Mike's

By Mary Ormsby
Toronto Star
September 23, 2010

Father William Hodgson Marshall, second from left, in a 1953 photo from a St. Michael's College School yearbook.

William Hodgson Marshall was a young Roman Catholic priest who taught mathematics with the same zest he coached basketball. That was the one-two punch he delivered to Toronto's prestigious St. Michael's College School six decades ago: A high-energy presence in the classroom and the gym to inspire hundreds of boys, including future NHLers.

Today the cleric now 88, battling cancer and living in retirement is facing two charges of indecent assault on a former St. Mike's student, now 72 years old.

The charges came Wednesday, just days after Pope Benedict's trip to England where he publicly apologized for the international sexual abuse crisis swamping the Catholic Church.

Marshall is at the centre of a second sexual abuse case, in Windsor. He's facing one count of sexual assault and five counts of indecent assault involving six victims in the border city. Those allegations are from the 1950s and the 1980s.

None of the allegations have been tested in court.

The Toronto charges stem from an incident in 1953. At the Basilian-run, all-boys school famed for producing hockey stars, 1953 was a typical year in a decade that sent players like Frank Mahovlich, Dick Duff, Murray Costello and Dave Keon to the NHL.

Mahovlich, now a senator, said through an aide in his Ottawa parliamentary office Wednesday that he doesn't remember Marshall from his high school days. Duff and Costello could not be reached for comment.

But hockey was not Marshall's sports passion. It was basketball, at which he excelled as a coach of championship squads. Basketball was also the link between the priest and the Toronto complainant.

It is alleged that in the fall of 1953, Marshall was coaching an after-school basketball program at St. Mike's. The priest asked the student, then 15 years old, to come into a private room where the boy says he was assaulted.

Police believe there may be more alleged victims.

The Montreal-born Marshall known as "Hod" to his friends reported to 52 Division on Wednesday where he was charged, fingerprinted and released. Accompanied by a fellow priest, he later returned to the Basilian retirement home on St. Joseph St. He has a Nov. 3 court appearance.

"Father Marshall is very aware of the seriousness of the incidents and has expressed deep sorrow over what has transpired," said Rev. Thomas Rosica, spokesperson for the Congregation of St. Basil.

"The Basilian fathers continue to work very transparently with the legal system and with police authorities and have worked very closely with the victims. Our primary concern is the victims in all of these cases."

The Congregation of St. Basil is a religious order under the aegis of the Roman Catholic Church. It operates without geographical borders, unlike diocesan priests who minister in a designated jurisdiction, such as an archdiocese.

Charges against priests in Toronto involving minors in the city have rarely been laid. In the Archdiocese of Toronto, no priest has been convicted of a sexual offence in the city involving a minor, said archdiocese spokesperson Bill Steinburg.

Marshall moved frequently during his 50-year teaching career and worked at St. Mike's twice: From 1952-'54 and from 1957-'58, according to Rosica.

There are other allegations against Marshall besides the charges in Toronto and Windsor. A 55-year-old Sudbury man alleged in August that Marshall abused him in 1969 when he was a Grade 9 student at St. Charles College, a local all-boys Catholic school.

Ted Holland said he was paid $30,000 in "hush money" by the Congregation of St. Basil's after Holland complained to Sudbury police in 1998 about his former basketball coach, whom Holland said molested him on three separate occasions. No charges were laid.

Rosica told the Star in August said it was "our normal response" to offer financial assistance to abuse victims to pay for psychological counselling. Holland was under the care of a psychologist at the time and taking medication for depression.

Marshall's teaching duties took him across Canada, into the United States and to St. Lucia over the five decades he ministered.

Rosica said Marshall would not attend the Nov. 3 court date. He will be represented by criminal lawyer Andrew Bradie, who is also looking after his Windsor charges.

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