Rod MacLeod was sexually abused by a Basilian priest, starting when he was 13 years old. His battle for justice is the subject of a new documentary film, called Prey. (Border City Pictures)
When priests are found guilty of sexual abuse, the Roman Catholic Church follows a familiar script: offer money to the victim, settle out of court and avoid a public trial.
Usually, it works.
Rod MacLeod refused to settle.
Instead, he hired Rob Talach, a lawyer based in London, Ont. — known as “the priest hunter” — and insisted on his day in court.
This legal case is the subject of a film called Prey, which premieres this month at Hot Docs, Canada’s largest documentary film festival.o
‘He’d start by tickling you’
MacLeod was a 13-year-old student at St. Charles College, an all-boys school in Sudbury, Ont., when his physical education teacher, a Basilian priest named William Hodgson Marshall, began to sexually assault him. The attacks continued for four years.
The school’s gym was located down the hall from the showers, and students had to pass Father Marshall’s office en route.
“That’s where he would grab you and pull you in,” MacLeod told The Sunday Edition host Michael Enright.
“He would kind of pin you between his desk and his chair. He would put his leg up so that it was like an enclosure … and then he’d start by tickling you and then very quickly it would be down into the shorts, and so on.”
Marshall also regularly pulled students into an empty classroom, locked the door and assaulted them.
Priest showed up at victim’s home
MacLeod said when he learned how to avoid him at school, the priest started to show up at his home, which his staunch Catholic parents considered an honour.
He would take MacLeod for “driving lessons,” then park the car and attack him.
“The pattern that is in play in many of these cases is identical,” Talach told Enright. “I’ve joked before that it must be a night school course at seminary because many of the perpetrator priests employ the same mechanisms to get at their victims.”
Talach added that developing a relationship with the victim’s family offers predators a “firewall,” because parents develop an affinity for the priest that — in addition to their religious loyalty and faith — stops them from reporting the abuse to higher authorities.
“And then, of course, there’s another firewall, that if it does get to the ears of the hierarchy of the church, it’s a pretty safe bet that they’re going to … simply move him,” said Talach, who has dubbed this “the silent shuffle.”
It happened to Marshall, who was transferred to four different communities, but each time remained a teacher with access to potential victims.
Prey features never-before-seen footage of Talach questioning Marshall during his deposition, as the priest calmly confesses to four decades of serial sexual abuse of young boys.The Sunday Edition
Lawyer Rob Talach questions William Hodgson Marshall on sex abuseListen
In audio provided by lawyer Rob Talach’s office, Talach interrogates Father Marshall during his 2012 deposition. Marshall admits to sexually touching boys at most of the schools where he was a teacher, and says he ‘imagines’ he knew it was a criminal offence at the time. 1:34
“It was a very surreal moment to sit across from a perpetrator priest,” said Talach, “and to take the priest’s confession, in a sense.”
Only about one per cent of cases involving sexual abuse by priests goes to trial, and MacLeod said the church could have avoided it in his case.
What does Pope Francis need to do to restore the church’s moral authority?
“I could have been persuaded not to go forward if I’d felt there was a contrite heart, a true sense that they were sorry and something like this would never happen again,” he said.
“But all I got was, here was another corporation that was protecting all of their assets right to the very letter, dragging things out as much as possible, being less than forthcoming, being less than helpful. So the more I experienced that, the more determined I became to see it through.”
‘There is a cathartic effect to litigation’
Talach said the average amount the church pays its victims is $250,000, “so these aren’t lottery wins.”
In MacLeod’s case, the church tried to abort the trial midway through with an offer of $1 million.
Talach had warned him the legal proceedings would be long and difficult, but added that “there is a cathartic effect to litigation beyond the money.”
The jury awarded Rod MacLeod almost $2.6 million, including a landmark ruling for punitive damages of $500,000.
‘How many were complicit?’ Sask. abuse victims say priest shouldn’t have been transferred to Ontario
“There really hasn’t been a cost to the church other than paying for the spilt milk in these situations,” said Talach.
“In most of these cases, they’re paying cents on the dollar as to what the real life effect was on the victim. The church in Canada has never had to pay a fine or be punished and no one has spent a day behind bars, from the hierarchy.
“So when we talk about punitive damages, that’s where we start to get that punishment piece — or penance, to use their language – which is more than due here.”
It’s in their DNA to do the wrong thing.
– Lawyer Rob Talach
Neither MacLeod nor Talach is surprised the church has appealed this decision.
“I’ve dealt with them now for 17 years, the Catholic church as a whole, and you can count on one hand the number of times they’ve done the right thing,” Talach said. “So, you know, it’s in their DNA to do the wrong thing.”
MacLeod said he was encouraged at first to hear about the actions Pope Francis was taking against sexual predators in the church, but became discouraged again when the Pope announced that forced celibacy for priests would continue.
“You want some outcome that leads to prevention,” Talach said. “The all-male celibate priesthood needs to go. You need to be like any other occupation in this nation: men, women, gay, straight, trans, single, married, blended family. Just open the doors and fix the problem.”
51 replies on “HOW A SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIM’S LAWSUIT SET A PRECEDENT THAT ALARMED THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.”
There is a pertinent article on this topic by Paul Elie in current issue of The New Yorker April 15, 2019, from which I draw similar conclusions: it’s far bigger than we think, and the Church is interested in containment and damage limitation. Nothing new then, but if you watch fandangos like the recent installation of the new Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle – not a bad man by any means – you’d think that everything was going great. We cannot continue with a toxic model of priesthood which begins, as comments yesterday disclosed, with septuagenarian nuns in crimplene asking potential candidates if they enjoy having a discreet J. Arthur.
Philosophy professor just apprehended in St.Patrick’s Cathedral, New York, with 4 gallons petrol, lighter fuel and barbecue lighters. Italian background and had one way ticket to Rome.
No ‘pat says’? That’s always the best bit!
It is the question of complicity. Who knew what and who covered for who over the decades.
Unindicted co-conspirators in sex crimes against children
It is a wonder as to why public prosecutors have failed to move on this matter
What’s the bill for Cardinal Pells celebrity lawyer to date?
‘ It’s in their DNA to do the wrong thing’.
What meta analysis explains all? Done for the ‘good of the Church’ ?
How does an ordinary catholic Christian make sense of what sins and crimes the hierarchy committed?
I reckon the answer is simple enough. I reckon the hierarchy have elevated the priesthood above the HOST.
If there was a lot more praying there might be a lot less preying in the priesthood.
‘Mourn and weep for the body of my Son is broken.’
We’re in the post-modernist phase. You should know that there’s no meta-analysis.
Yl never fix th problem hi. But having a more realistic approach to church and ministry is a step in th rite direction but. What is the church for anyway hi. What’s the job description in a modern world. If the church doesn’t know itself it’s hard for anywan to be sure about anything hi
Mornin Fly hi.
Begorra fly there’s nathin like a dose of reality to waken people up. There’s some sinin in all dna butt. Has the plot been lost hi Fly and the tale been twisted.
Bye fly hi.
I was at the Chrism Mass yesterday. A pretty sad sight. Over weight, old, grey haired men waddling down the aisle with a smattering of camp, prissy, traditionalist youngsters, all groups giving off a self-satisfied and self-indulgent air, notwithstanding the foundational damage that has been done to the way they are viewed by the rest of us because of the existential scandal and coverup of abuse that has been taking place for decades. To the observer, there was something dysfunctional and irrelevant about this gaggle of men (yes, only men, note !) on a day out, mostly either completely unconscious of what message they were sending out, or simply being in denial and refusing to see the writing on the wall. Then, a bishop, who soothed them with words of nonsensical balm, telling them that they are so important and do such wonderful work. Some may do so. But the vast majority live a life that is cosseted, out of touch with the real world and real people, and in their own personal lives are stunted emotionally and affectively, and are immature in their psycho-sexual development, and mostly incapable of mature and responsible relationships. They are men who are absolved of the responsibilities and burdens of every day life, such as worrying about how to pay the mortgage, feed and clothe the kids, and make ends of meet, because they have access to the funds of the grey parish and diocesan economy that supports them. Yesterday was a day of celebration of clericalism and entitlement, rather than a celebration of sacrificial service. That is the priesthood of today. It must change. However, with the current crop of bishops and leaders, who are products of this system, and the old priests who cannot change their ways, and the young conservative fogeys who do not want to change and see the priesthood as a refuge from the rigours of real life, there is not much hope of development. Which means there will probably be a catastrophic collapse of the priesthood, possibly brought about by secular society deciding that this way of being is dangerous and fosters dysfunction, and yes, abuse. And they will do something about this miserable lot. I certainly hope so.
A recipe for a future priesthood ? Well, how about…..1. An end to privileged, entitled, clericalism. 2. And end to mandatory celibacy and the introduction of married priests, with families. 3. The ordination of women, who will bring a new perspective and energy to the priesthood. 4. Priests who work in the real world, at least part time, and develop an economy of self-sufficiency, like the rest of us have to do. 5. Lay oversight of parishes and dioceses, whereby priests and bishops are elected from the local community, rather like the early Church, and are accountable to the local community. Then, when you come back in 50 years time, you might find a priesthood that is characterised by service, simplicity, holiness, balance, reality, emotional maturity…….
Great post 👍
I agree: excellent work at 09:20 am. Paul Elie’s article cited above concludes with a deadly accurate observation. John Henry Newman, undoubtedly gay himself, wrote his famous defense in 1863 against Charles Kingsley’s accusation that “Newman, because he was a Catholic priest, could not be trusted to tell the truth, for ‘truth, for its own sake, had never been a virtue with the Roman clergy.’ ” As Paul Elie remarks, “A century and a half later, that critic, not Newman, seems to have been vindicated.”
NB Neither I, nor, I am sure, Paul Elie is suggesting that homosexuality is per se a problem; only that the Church makes it so by denying obvious truths about the complexity of human sexuality. That vocational training is still in the hands of frustrated elderly Sapphists interrogating lying young men about wanking shows the unlikelihood of emotional maturity or intellectual honesty among the clergy. I entirely agree that liturgical fandangos seem now utterly weird and creepy. Stay away!
Have you thought of joining the Congregationalists? You’d be much happier there, I think.
9.20: I agree with you almost verbatim. You capture the reality of priesthood today, though there are great exceptions, men who are real, humble, who give great service and who are in touch with their humanity and connect well with others, men who are full of faith, prayer and fidelity. Sadly, we are an ageing constituency and it’s unfair to expect 75/78/80/83/85/89 year old priests to still be working simply filling in the gaps. I stopped going to the Chrisn Mass many many years ago as I was uncfortable with the male hierarchy and a certain triumphalism. I also didn’t enjoy the parade of clericalism. I will give quiet gratitude to God for priesthood this evening but my focus will be on the ministry given to all of us through baptism. I think your observations are good, if a little unkind. We as priests know we are challenged to be different, to be catalysts for meaningful, Christ-like living and renewal. We need the prayers of people. Definitely. We also need their God given gifts, imagination, humanity and service.
Anon @11:52.: You sound like one of the decent ones. And I do acknowledge that despite all the horror stories, sincere selfless caring pastors do exist.
I have an ‘uncomfortable ‘ question for you and ask it in sincerity and trust that you will answer with sincerity.
Of the ten PPs nearest/adjacent to you, how many of those, in your judgement, are selfless, hard working, sincere pastors? From my point of view their personal lifestyle from a sexual perspective is irrelevant, so ask you exclude that consideration.
Your suggestions are not solutions, they are trite, predictable, worn and boring. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz
It’s all been tried before: join the Presbyterians, anglicans, baptists, methodists etc etc etc etc. And they’ve all had WAY over 50 yrs.
Anon@ 9:20: An excellent comment accurately reflecting the reality.
Why did you go then you prick? Just to cause trouble? Did you pray with us during Mass you reprobate?
Now, now, Father, just because somebody points out the glaring faults of the clergy and clericalism, there is no need to get all offensive. Were you at the Chrism Mass yourself ? Or did you find ‘better’ things to do – like a trip to the sauna, or the cruising lay-by, or off to the sun in Sitges of Gran Canaria and making new friends with a few local rent boys ? Now, come on, tell us the truth ! Oh, do, Father dear…..
Actually, we probably know the the truth already… !
See, two can get nasty….!
You sound nice, 09:20
As my English teacher at a school used to say: ‘One only says nice of cakes….’
Pat, will we see you on Rte tonight in Maynooth?
I dont think so 😁
Awk Pat get a wee vama protest going ya wee hur.
Will Mullaney kindly step down and apologize to his victims .
VAMA must fight for the medical compensation for Sean Hickey and David Dysky.
They can speak for themselves. They don’t need you coming on here periodically like a broken record. Go to the police if you have material evidence of wrongdoing. Otherwise, deal with your resentment in a healthier way.
Will Mullaney is a sister of Pat Mullaney btw
Bp Pat age verification checks for pornographic websites will come into force on July 15th in the UK.
The new rules mean adults, including priests who want to access material online, will have to pay (using their credit card) to use an age verification service.
I wonder how this will affect priests, Bp Pat, as I imagine for older ones this is their only outlet, or it is back to dirty book shops and peep shows for them? I wonder.
I doubt it will present a problem for priests in general; some will just hop over the border I guess to get their daily eyeful.
Remember Father Martin McVeigh, Bp Pat, the priest, who once hit the headlines for showing gay porn at a school presentation.
1.08: You are a sleaze ball, a pervy idiit. What age are you? You obviously are some screwed up twit. Bet you’ll be disappointed that you will have to give your identity on such sites too. Go and say your prayers.
Pat ye have me destroyed ya wee hur for not arranging a vama protest.
Don’t the clergy get animated when discussing money concerning them.
Not much to say about compensation for those abused by priests. Not surprising.
It’s all about financial damage limitation and avoiding publicly. Nothing else.
The scandal described in the article above is going on in Galway right now, cover up, cover up, cover up. The priest will be awarded a new playground to stalk in by the bishop in the summer. One very good lay person he and his housekeeper slandered for challenging him about his predatory behaviour to a young man moved away from Galway. He and her arrived in the persons new town to slander them in the shops and tell people to watch the said person.
Pat please write a blog on the Mullaney sex trip to Prague involving Suana Babylonia. This monster must be stopped. The trip occured two years ago. The cover storey was a football trip.
But we’ve heard all about this ages ago on the blog, the old blog probably. I remember the foam party; all the nude priests running about starkers in the froth… it was disgusting.
I had sex with a Priest at a foam party a few years ago. Only knew he was a Priest when we went back to his house for mind blowing nookie afterwards. He knew exactly how to satisfy a man and still does!
This will be disappointing news for many on this blog, but the Tuam babies were NOT thrown into a septic tank.
There was never any proof at all that they WERE!
The so-called ‘historian’ just thought it might have been a place they MIGHT have put dead children who she thought MIGHT have existed because of the maths she did in her head as to the numbers of children there MIGHT have been.
She back tracked somewhat when the story caught on but the ‘media’ with their usual agenda disregarded that and all the ‘mights’ and propagated the story as fact. Surprising, not!
You didn’t read that Irish Times write-up carefully enough. According to it, the Irish Government’s interim report stated that the underground chamber at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home COULD have been used for the treatment of water or sewage.
You didn’t read the reports of a meeting of Galway County Council and reported in newspapers from the 1940s-‘50s where outrage was expressed that so much state money was being spent on the likes of the residents. We may assume that these were considered unworthy of the cost.
Everything has a context.
Pat Mullaney all excited being on the telly the marra and the Saturday night in the hairdressers all day under a big dryer
You have problems. Like Simon Peter, your accent betrays the fact that you are a northener.
@11:37pm Naw! Yer wrang! 😉😆
Pat Mullaney had a servant girl this one time called Tamarra Knight but she was let go on account of the carrying tales to the Bum Bum Cafe when it was open
Peter denied it too.
The hierarchy protects the institution at all costs.
Tomorrow is Good Friday. Will you please post a homily Pat to focus us on the purpose of the Tridium.
Will Mullaney has me destroyed
10.33: Go to your own Catholic Church. You should find help there…..
I can’t wait to see trolly dolly on tv on sat night can’t wait haven’t seen him since he sold me a bag of crisps on a Ryanair flight on the way back from Ibiza