Catholic church settles Vernon lawsuit, apologizes for sexual abuse

By Ben Bulmer
September 12, 2020

Two brothers who were sexually abused by a Catholic priest in Vernon during the 1970s have come to an out of court settlement with the Archdiocese of Kamloops.

The brothers filed separate civil claims last year, both alleging they had been sexually abused by Father Herbert Bourne when they were teenagers while the now-deceased priest was working at the St. James Catholic Church in Vernon.

The brothers' lawyer Bill Dick told the case was settled out of court a couple of weeks ago.

"What was ultimately important in the process was the Archdiocese through its legal counsel put forward an offer that included an apology and an acknowledgement of wrongdoing," Dick said. "It was the right decision from the Archdiocese to say we acknowledge that what happened was horrific, we acknowledge that what Father Bourne did should never have happened and it was a horrific breach of abuse and trust from someone that should be providing moral and spiritual guidance."

The lawyer said the Archdiocese of Kamloops Bishop Joseph Phuong Nguyen met with the brothers and their families to give a formal apology and an acknowledgement that what happened was a horrific breach of trust. has chosen not to name the brothers who are now both in their mid-50s.

According to the Notice of Claim, Father Bourne committed a "tortious act... when he wrongfully and intentionally sexually, emotionally and mentally abused and traumatized the plaintiff."

The abuse took place in the church, at the priest's home, and his vehicle, and also at the men's home. The notice of claim states the Diocese "failed to act when it knew or ought to have known" about the abuse.

The lawyer wouldn't disclose the amount of compensation awarded but said confidentiality was not part of the settlement.

"(The Archdiocese) acknowledged the wrongdoing and they acknowledged the harm, and that acknowledgement is reflected in the value of the settlement," he said. "It was a fair and reasonable amount."

The announcement of the settlement comes days after a Supreme Court Justice awarded almost $850,000 to a former teacher after the judge ruled the Archdiocese of Kamloops had failed to protect the teacher from the "predatory instincts" of a "playboy" priest.

The priest, Father Erlindo Molon, had initiated an unwanted sexual relationship with Rosemary Anderson in 1976. In the judgement, Aug. 25, the judge found Bishop Adam Exner failed to act although he was well aware of Father Molon's conduct.

"Bishop Exner concedes in hindsight he clearly failed to do the right thing. In my view, this revelation ought not to have required hindsight," Justice David Crossin said in the decision.

The case highlights how historically the Catholic church has dealt with sexual abuse by priests.

Exner was the bishop in Kamloops at the time the brothers were sexually abused, and Dick said it was suspected, but not known whether the Archdiocese knew about Father Bourne's behaviour.

"We never got to the point where we needed to do that examination because they came forward and acknowledged the wrongdoing," he said.

However, the lawyer does believe there are probably more victims out there.

"Someone who is a predator who is exploiting at least two brothers... I can almost guarantee that there were other victims out there," Dick said. "People who are in positions of trust and power and abuse, they continue to abuse, they're predators."

Dick said he doesn't know when Father Bourne passed away, but he was transferred and left the Kamloops diocese.

The lawyer said the brothers hope their case will allow other victims to come forward and seek the help that they need.

"I'm proud of these two men to come forward and talk about it," he said.

Dick also said the $850,000 awarded in the Anderson case sent a clear message of condemnation.

Along with $275,000 in damages for pain and suffering, Justice Crossin also ordered punitive damages – damages meant to punish the perpetrators – against Father Molon and the Kamloops Archdiocese for $400,000.

"It sends a pretty firm message to organizations, not just the church, but other organizations, who are trying to hide things," he said.


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