Saskatoon Catholic diocese releases details on 9 sexual assault and misconduct cases

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon has released details about nine historical cases involving sexual abuse and misconduct that were investigated as part of the Safer Churches, Safer communities Safeguarding Action Plan.

The March 2020 commitment by the diocese involves reviewing historical cases of serious misconduct reported over the last 60 years in the diocese.

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The review released in July only involved complaints for which the investigation of the report had concluded.

Two committees separate from the bishop were tasked with reviewing practices. The review committee was comprised of non-clergy members with a range of experience in legal and police investigative fields.

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The diocese declined to speak to reporters after the review was released.

In a video message posted to YouTube, Bishop Mark Hagemoen thanked those involved in the process.

“I again express my profound sorrow and I apologize for what you have suffered and for the betrayal, violation, and abandonment you have experienced.”

“I also apologize to all members of our church whose faith and trust has been damaged because of the sinful actions of those who have abused the innocent and those who covered up such abuse.”

Hagemoen said he recognizes that both individual and institutional change must happen for the church to move forward.

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According to the review process, a file is considered “concluded” when “all investigative angles have been pursued.”

A concluded file may involve the laying of criminal charges, the application of internal discipline like the removal of a priest, or insufficient evidence.

A file may also be considered concluded if the complaint is determined to be unsubstantiated.

“In some cases, due to the passage of time, there were very few sources of information (for instance, witnesses or subjects may have died). There was insufficient investigation or documentation on some of the historic files. This creates difficulty in determining whether an incident or allegation is substantiated or not,” a release stated.

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Conclusions made by the investigator are required to follow the standard of reasonable belief, based on “a diligent examination of all available evidence.”

“Of the concluded files that exist, where allegations of sexual abuse or serious misconduct were made to the diocese of Saskatoon, there were nine cases involving alleged serious misconduct by persons in service of the church within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.”

Seven priests are alleged to have committed serious misconduct or sexual abuse. Two laypersons – employees or volunteers of the diocese – are also alleged to have committed serious misconduct or sexual abuse.

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One of those laypersons was a church employee who was accused of accessing pornography at the workplace.

The review process found 10 known victims in these cases. The victims include one male youth who was under 13 at the time of the case, five who were teenage men, one adult man and three adult women.

The review process did not involve any residential schools as there were none located within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.

The first case listed in the review involved Father William Hodgson Marshall, a priest who was convicted in 2011 for abusing 17 youth in Ontario. In February 2012, Marshall was charged with indecent assault of two Saskatoon boys in 1959 and 1961 who came forward as adults.

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Marshall died in 2014.

Another case involved a priest who is alleged to have committed a series of sexual assaults on a teenage man over three years. The priest’s name is not being released because the victim did not want to contact police. The priest is elderly and no longer active in the ministry.

One case involved a volunteer, Harold Jones, who was convicted of sexually abusing a teenage boy.

“The perpetrator met the victim in the context of volunteering at a local parish. The sexual assault occurred at a later date,” the analysis stated.

Jones was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2008.

As part of the Safeguarding Action Plan, intake officers are available for reporting allegations of serious misconduct and sexual abuse.

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As of July 14, the diocese said it will implement a 24-hour hotline for those who want to make anonymous complaints.

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