B.C. priest 'should have been stopped,' sex abuse victim says

By Bethany Lindsay
CBC News
August 31, 2020

Rosemary Anderson was 27 years old when she was abused by a priest at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Kamloops. This staff photo was taken when she began teaching at the parish's school in 1976.
Photo by Rosemary Anderson

Rosemary Anderson, left, stands outside the Vancouver law courts with her lawyer, Sandra Kovacs, in March 2020 at the conclusion of the civil trial over her abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest.
Photo by Rosemary Anderson

Father Erlindo Molon, shown at left in a 2010 photo, worked as a priest in Kamloops under Archbishop Emeritus Adam Exner, right.

[with audio]

Lawyer for Rosemary Anderson says she hopes court victory will send a message to Kamloops diocese

A woman who was repeatedly sexually abused by a priest in Kamloops, B.C., says the leadership of the Catholic church failed her by not acting on previous reports of his misconduct.

Last week, a B.C. Supreme Court judge awarded Rosemary Anderson $844,140 in damages for the sexual battery she suffered at the hands of Father Erlindo Molon while he was a priest at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the 1970s.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Kamloops was held directly and vicariously liable for those damages after the court heard church leadership was aware of Molon's reputation as a playboy priest and an archbishop had even confronted him about it, but nothing was done to stop him.

In an interview with CBC Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce, Anderson spoke about how Molon took advantage of her in 1976 when she arrived in town as a 27-year-old teacher freshly grieving the death of her father.

"This priest should have been stopped long before I was there," said Anderson, who is now 70.  "I was new in town. I had no knowledge of any rumours of any behaviour that was wrong by this priest."

The court heard that when Anderson turned to Molon for comfort and guidance, he initiated a sexual relationship that lasted months. She told the court she took no pleasure in the encounters, and felt "trapped" in the relationship.

Anderson's lawyer, Sandra Kovacs, said it's well established in law that there is no such thing as consent to sex in a relationship between a priest and a parishioner.

"The church would not concede that there was no consent to this to these sexual acts until the morning of the first day of trial, and that was incredibly hard for Rosemary," Kovacs told CBC.

Kovacs grew up Catholic and says this was a "daunting" case to take on because of that history, but she hopes this lawsuit will lead to some change — if only within the Kamloops diocese.

"Ms. Andersen's claim is one of hundreds of thousands, and I don't think it will be felt at that level where unfortunately I think it needs to be felt for change to effectively happen within the church on a global scale," Kovacs said.

"But my hope is that it is felt by the diocese locally."

'I was just desperate to escape'

Molon is currently unable to manage his own affairs, and the Ontario Public Guardian and Trustee participated in the trial on his behalf.

The trial heard how Molon's abuse was discovered when he asked Anderson to marry him, and the two went to then-Archbishop Adam Exner for advice about how to proceed.

"I did not want to marry him, but I felt that it was the only way to make what was happening right," Anderson said.

"I was just desperate to escape the situation and I didn't know how."

Exner advised against marrying, and told Molon he would have to leave Kamloops.

He also told Anderson she would have to leave the diocese.

According to Anderson's testimony, Exner told her the other parishioners "wouldn't let up until you go insane, and they'll crucify you" — a memory that Exner disputed in court.

But Anderson said the word "crucified" had a profound effect on her as a young woman.

"It confirmed what I already felt, that I was a terrible person for doing this," Anderson said.

She now sees that what happened to her has had a profoundly negative effect on her life. Not long after she left Kamloops, she attempted suicide and was admitted into psychiatric care. 

"I felt like I was completely unlovable and that I was not worthy of any significant good things in life. I thought I was just an absolutely awful person. I entered into a marriage that was without love and I gave up my dreams of becoming a doctor," Anderson said.

Over the years, she says she learned to bury the memories, but could never fully forget them.

Then, in 2015, she saw the movie Spotlight, which centres on historical child sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests in Boston, Mass.

Anderson said. "I walked out of there and said to my husband, that was me and I was abused."




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