‘loophole’ in Child Abuse Reporting in Historic Cases: Advocates

By Adrian Ghobrial and Jessica Bruno
October 20, 2020

Basilian priests Fr. Leo Campbell and Fr. William Hod Marshall.

If a child told you they’d been sexually assaulted by an adult what would you do? Would you call police? Would you report the allegations to a children’s aid society? Or would you do neither?

For most of us, the moral choice is clear. So why has the obligation to report often been ignored by many who claim to be doing God’s work?

Sister Nuala Kenny is a pediatrician who has spent decades examining the sexual assault scandal rocking the religious institution she’s given her life to. As a nun, she calls the Catholic Church’s response to the abuse of children “a contradiction to what we’ve been called to be as Christians.”

A CityNews investigation has uncovered several child sexual assault claims against an order of Catholic priests based in Toronto. Dating back decades, the Basilian Fathers were made aware of abuse allegations against their own priests, but historically, cases were never reported to police or a children’s aid society. Instead, allegations were dealt with internally, resulting in alleged predator priests continuing to work in schools and churches.

“If the Church had reacted more effectively and properly, we would not have the catastrophe that we have today.”

It’s a scenario lawyer Rob Talach has seen again and again.

“This is the repetitive story in the Catholic cases, these priests are often reported and moved. I term it ‘the silent shuffle,’” he says. “If the Church had reacted more effectively and properly, we would not have the catastrophe that we have today.”

Disturbing Allegations

It’s the summer of 1978, and as they have for years, hundreds of underprivileged children from the city flood Columbus Boys Camp in Orillia, north of Toronto. The rural refuge is operated by the Basilian Fathers. The order of Catholic priests, also known as the Congregation of St. Basil, founded, runs or staffs schools and other educational institutions across the continent. Their motto is a passage from the Bible’s Book of Psalms: “Teach me goodness, discipline and knowledge.”

Bill Taylor was a 17-year-old camp counselor that summer and has fond memories of his time with the kids. “We took them canoeing, there was archery, camp crafts, it was a lot of fun.”

However, Taylor also says the sunny escape turned into a cabin of horrors for a group of young children.

“One day, three or four of these young boys, maybe six, seven or eight [years old], came to tell us that Father Leo was coming into their cabin at night and putting his hand in their sleeping bags and fondling them,” Taylor tells CityNews.

Taylor says he reported the allegations to Father John Malo, a Basilian Priest he looked up to. He says Fr. Malo appeared angry and the next day Father Leo Campbell was gone from the camp. No one ever spoke to him about the alleged incident, Taylor says, and he doesn’t believe any authorities were contacted.

Two years later, Fr. Campbell, now a teacher at a Basilan-run school in Sault St. Marie, would allegedly sexually assault and rape student Peter Luci for two years.

Taylor believes “it’s a reasonable conclusion” that if police were called following the allegations at Columbus Boys camp – other young boys would have been spared.

Sr. Kenny calls priests who didn’t investigate or report claims of abuse “enablers of what happened.”

CityNews reached out to the Basilians multiple times, asking for an interview with one of their most senior priests, Vicar General David Katulski. Our requests were denied by their lawyer. Eventually, we sent questions about Taylor’s account to the Basilians for an official response. The order again declined to answer, stating, “we do not feel it is appropriate to answer your questions about specific individuals or events.” Their lawyer sent a statement addressing some of our questions about policy and the history of the Church’s understanding of sex abuse.








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