Our Lady of Perpetual Help school in Kamloops. (Google Maps)

Our Lady of Perpetual Help school in Kamloops. (Google Maps)

Woman awarded $844K after judge slams ‘reprehensible’ sex abuse coverup at Kamloops church

Justice David Crossin said archbishop covered up abuse by priest

  • Aug. 27, 2020 10:25 a.m.

Kamloops This Week

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Kamloops will pay a former schoolteacher $844,140 in damages as a result of a sexual assault case ruling at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

Rosemary Anderson filed a lawsuit against the church, alleging she was sexually assaulted more than 40 years ago by Father Erlindo Molon after she was hired as a teacher at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help school in North Kamloops in the fall of 1976.

She testified that, at the time, she was grieving the death of her father and seeking spiritual guidance from the priest, who is now 88 years old and suffering from dementia.

What followed, court heard, was a sexual relationship perpetuated by Molon that carried on for months, during which Anderson said she was exploited, felt trapped and was unaware of how to end it.

Anderson, who was 26 at the time and is now 70, testified they had sexual intercourse 70 to 100 times over the course of the affair. By the spring of 1977, she sought the advice of then-Kamloops Bishop Adam Exner, who opted to try to keep the scandal quiet. Molon was eventually suspended and forced to leave the Diocese, but Anderson said Exner advised her that she also needed to leave Kamloops.

READ MORE: Woman sues Roman Catholic Diocese of Kamloops, alleging sexual abuse

Justice David Crossin, who presided over the trial, found Molon’s conduct was an egregious and reprehensible abuse of power.

“He exploited the vulnerability of a young woman entrusted to his care to engage in a prolonged and repeated course of sexual exploitation,” Crossin said. “His conduct was clearly wrong by the standards of any time. He also demonstrated a brazen indifference to the harm caused by his actions.”

Crossin said punitive damages against the Diocese was merited based on its direct liability in negligence as the church failed Anderson profoundly in a moment of great need.

Exner was aware of troubling rumours about Molon’s other exploits as early as the spring of 1976, which were all but confirmed when he confronted the priest about the Anderson relationship, Crossin said, adding he knew Molon’s conduct put the spiritual and psychological well-being of his parishioners at risk.

“He chose not to act as he himself admitted. This resulted in a serious violation of trust,” Crossin said. “It was, in my view, a purposeful and reprehensible omission, which merits the condemnation of the court.”

Anderson was awarded $275,000 in non-pecuniary damages, punitive damages against defendant Erlindo Molon totalling $250,000, punitive damages against the church totalling $150,000, $125,000 in loss of past income, $25,000 for cost of future care and special damages in the sum of $19,140.

The amount awarded to Anderson was below the $2.4 million she had been seeking, but well above the $60,000 settlement the church had sought.

In a statement, Anderson said she is grateful her lawsuit uncovered the truth behind Molon’s misdeeds.

“The church knew he was a problem before I ever moved to Kamloops, yet they did nothing,” Anderson said.

She said if not for the failings of the church, she would have never been harmed by Molon and lived for 40 years burdened with immense shame and a sense of low self-worth that impacted her life in every way.

She said she hopes the settlement forces the Roman Catholic church to recognize the error of its ways.

Anderson’s lawyer, Sandra Kovacs, said victims of sexual assault are often reluctant to move forward with cases for fear of being re-traumatized by the process, noting it takes tremendous courage to proceed to trial, particularly against the powerful and well-funded Roman Catholic Church.

“I commend Ms. Anderson for her bravery,” Kovacs said in a statement. “She has done a service to countless other victims of clergy sexual abuse, most notably adult victims of abuse and exploitation, her case being the first adult victim case involving Catholic clergy in Canada. Mr. Justice Crossin’s judgment puts to rest any suggestion that sexual contact between a spiritual leader and a vulnerable parishioner has the capacity to be consensual, and this is a victory,”

In the majority of cases, Anderson said, sexual violence against women is committed by a known and trusted individual, not at the hands of a stereotypical hooded stranger in an alleyway.

“There could be no greater trust by a young woman than in her community’s spiritual leader, in my case a Roman Catholic priest,” Anderson said. “The fact that a rapist is known to his victim does not diminish the rapist’s culpability nor does it diminish the harm caused to the victim.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

BC Supreme CourtCriminal Justice

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bridges Supportive Housing has opened in West Quesnel, within walking distance of downtown. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Supportive housing now open in West Quesnel

Bridges Supportive Housing accepted its first tenants in late October

Trees sold at Kersley Christmas Trees, just south of Quesnel, can reach up to 16 feet. Although you’ll probably need something bigger than a car to take it home. (Submitted Photo)
Kersley couple celebrating 25 years of Christmas tree sales

Jim and Kathy Dyer say coming to their farm to pick a tree has become a tradition for many families

Arrow Transportation Services Ltd. brought a pickup truck load of non-perishable food donations in colourful Christmas-themed bags to the Quesnel Salvation Army Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. From left, Steve Williams, Adam Ligertwood and Anita Reid from Arrow present the donations, which totalled 880 pounds, to Salvation Army Major Debbie Gatza. (Lindsay Chung Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel Salvation Army very grateful for community support

Arrow dropped off 880 pounds for the food bank Nov. 30, and a QDA food drive is currently underway

Kyle Aben, the City of Quesnel’s carbon review co-ordinator, worked to create the city’s climate plan and is asking the public for feedback. (Quesnel Cariboo Observer File Photo)
Quesnel sets out climate plan for city operations, community

Nearly 70 per cent of emissions from city operations are related to transportation

Barkerville Historic Town and Park launched its Greetings from History campaign Dec. 1 and is hoping to raise $30,000 to send 2,000 “Letters for the Lonely.” (James Douglas Photo)
Barkerville launches Greetings from History letter-writing campaign

Historical characters hope to write 2,000 personalized letters to those living in seclusion

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

An 18-year old male southern resident killer whale, J34, is stranded near Sechelt in 2016. A postmortem examination suggests he died from trauma consistent with a vessel strike. (Photo supplied by Paul Cottrell, Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
“We can do better” — humans the leading cause of orca deaths: study

B.C. research reveals multitude of human and environmental threats affecting killer whales

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

BIG SALMON ranch in Washington State. (Center for Whale Research handout)
Non-profit buys Chinook ranch in hopes of increasing feed for southern resident killer whales

The ranch, which borders both sides of Washington State’s Elwha River, is a hotspot for chinook salmon

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

Most Read