A B.C. man who claims he was sexually assaulted as a high school seminarian plans to appear in B.C. Supreme Court on Thursday to seek records from the Vatican’s representative in Canada about the monk who, according to him, abused him.
Mark O’Neill wants the court to order the official – known as the Apostolic Nuncio – to hand over to him investigative records and correspondence regarding allegations of sexual misconduct at Christ the King Seminary in Mission, Columbia. British.
The request follows the emergence in O’Neill’s case of an anonymous letter said to have been sent decades ago to the former head of the abbey who runs the seminary, warning the monk Benedictine now deceased at the heart of the trial.
The ‘former seminarians’ letter claimed that Harold Vincent Sander – known as Father Placidus – was ‘known to have been involved in homosexual activity’ with high school students’ and suggested ‘he should be kept away from underage seminarians’ “.
“A gross miscarriage of justice”
O’Neill is suing the seminary and Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vancouver as well as Sander’s estate and one of the seminary’s former students, who O’Neill says sexually assaulted him while overseeing a nighttime excursion in the late 70’s.
The fitness trainer is one of three former students who testified against Sander in a criminal case that saw the monk acquitted of sexual assault in December 1997.
The Apostolic Nuncio is considered a sort of Vatican ambassador.
In the court petition, O’Neill’s attorney claims the anonymous letter raising concerns about Sander was sent via the Papal Nuncio in May 1987 – 10 years before Sander was put on trial.
The request says the warning “was apparently never disclosed to the police or the Crown” although the former abbot and the “Apostolic Nunciature were fully aware of its existence and the possibility of other victims”.
“There is undoubtedly more beneath the surface of these letters,” the app says.
“A serious miscarriage of justice resulted.”
According to the Apostolic Nunciature’s website, an apostolic delegation was established in Canada in 1899 and a nuncio was first appointed in 1969.
The apostolic nuncio is described in O’Neill’s request as the pope’s official presence in Canada, advising and working with Canadian bishops “in addition to serving as a diplomat on behalf of the Vatican.”
A letter sent to the court by Global Affairs Canada earlier this month says the current Apostolic Nuncio, Ivan Jurkovic, enjoys diplomatic immunity – as do the records of his office.
In the application, O’Neill’s attorney asserts that the foreign immunity does not extend to legal proceedings relating to “death or personal injury.”
Allegations of Systemic Wrongdoing
O’Neill’s trial is due in September.
The defendants in the case have all denied O’Neill’s allegations.
O’Neill recently amended his complaint against the seminary and church to include allegations of systemic wrongdoing, citing a culture that allegedly “silenced witnesses, complainants and whistleblowers,” allowing perpetrators to abuse “to continue committing their serious crimes”.
In response, the seminary denied “the existence of a culture of entrenched clericalism and distorted beliefs within the Roman Catholic Church”.
The seminary also claims that aside from the anonymous warning, “there are no further communications…regarding the allegations against Sander” between the Abbey and the Apostolic Nuncio.
O’Neill is one of two former plaintiffs in the criminal case to file civil lawsuits against the seminary, the archbishop and Sander’s estate.
In the lead up to the trial, hundreds of pages of documents have been filed with the court, including partial transcripts of a deposition from the ailing monk in the months before his death.
Sander was asked about his admission to trial for a “consensual genital act” with a 12th grader in the 1980s when he was in his late 50s or early 60s.
He insisted the former student was over 18 and said they were in a “state of stripping”, but could not recall whether they were both fully naked.
Sander claims the seminarian masturbated him, but said, “I have never masturbated any seminarian.”
“I thought I was a good friend of his and said, OK, if that’s all our friendship means,” Sander reportedly said.
At a later stage in the deposition, in response to a question from O’Neill’s attorney, he admitted to having “disordered thinking in relation to a curiosity about male genitalia”.
The court filing also includes a copy of the reasons for judgment which saw Sander acquitted of sexually assaulting O’Neill and the two other alleged victims in December 1997.
The judge questioned O’Neill’s credibility, in part because of unsubstantiated allegations he made to the RCMP accusing the other man who allegedly sexually assaulted him of murdering Father Damusus Payne , a seminary teacher who died in a mountaineering accident in 1978.
The judge said the evidence against Sander involving activities from decades earlier was “treacherous” and left “as many questions as answers.”
“All three plaintiffs suffered trauma of some kind that required resolution with expert assistance,” the judge wrote.
“However, the existence of therapy does not in itself support the conclusion that the events occurred as described.”
None of the allegations have been proven in court.