Papal envoy’s records sought in alleged sex abuse case of BC priest


The British Columbia Supreme Court has been asked to issue an order compelling the pope’s representative in Canada to hand over records related to allegations of sexual abuse at a seminary.

A man who claims he was sexually assaulted by Catholic Mission priests and a seminary employee wants the Pope’s envoy to Canada to hand over documents related to the case.

Mark O’Neill is seeking damages for sexual abuse he claims he suffered as a teenager while at a Catholic missionary seminary from 1974 to 1978. He was then between 13 and 17 years old.

The defendants named in the suit are: Séminaire du Christ-Roi; Westminster Abbey Ltd.; the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vancouver, a Sole Corporation; Emerick Lazar; Harold Vincent Sander aka Dom Placidus Sander; Shawn Rohrbach and John Doe.

In a March 25 petition to the Supreme Court of British Columbia, O’Neill and attorney Sandra Kovacs seek an order for the Reverend Ian Jurkovic, the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, to turn over several records.

These include:

  • correspondence between the seminary, the abbey, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver and the papal nuncio regarding sexual misconduct at the seminary;
  • speaking notes from meetings attended by the nuncio when sexual misconduct was discussed;
  • investigative records stemming from an anonymous May 1987 letter to the nuncio from seminarians; and
  • investigation files of sexual misconduct at the seminary.

The 1987 letter to Father Eugene Medved alleged that Father Placidus was involved in same-sex relationships with high school seminarians.

The app says the letter “was likely never disclosed to police.” A serious miscarriage of justice resulted, causing serious additional harm” to O’Neill and another man who sued the defendants, as requested.

O’Neill alleges that Rohrbach, a student employed at the seminary, sexually assaulted him while he was a student. He alleges that Rohrbach performed oral sex on him and harassed younger boys in a shower room.

O’Neill alleges that Lazar, a priest, broke his arm. Sander, also a priest, then reportedly delayed access to medical care to cover up the broken bone. Sander died in 2021, according to the suit.

The new request also wants any correspondence or documents in the papal nuncio’s possession regarding the criminal charges against Sander.

The possibility for the nuncio to be covered by diplomatic immunity exists. The request suggests that such immunity “should not be allowed to undermine the truth-seeking process”.

In the alternative, the petition seeks an order directing the defendants to authorize the nuncio to deliver the requested documents.

The complaint alleges that the defendants were systematically negligent and were “complicit in a culture of entrenched clericalism and distorted beliefs that implicitly fostered the psychosexual immaturity of priests and seminarians, perpetuating sexually deviant behavior.”

The request also targets documents from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kamloops related to Rohrbach.

O’Neill has already successfully asked the court to call former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vancouver, Adam Exner, for examination on discovery. By accepting the request, the consenting judge established rules to help Exner due to his age. The retired cleric is now 93 years old.

O’Neill alleges that the Archbishop’s office negligently failed to mitigate the known risks posed by the other defendants and is vicariously liable for their conduct.

O’Neill is also seeking an order for Rohrbach to appear for discovery hearings in the case.

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