Will the Pope’s envoy deliver files in the sex abuse case of a BC priest?

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Pope’s ambassador to Canada will not have to hand over records relating to allegations of sexual abuse of BC priests unless he agrees to a request from defendants in the case, court has ruled Supreme Court of British Columbia on July 4.

A man who claims he was sexually abused by Catholic Mission priests and a seminary employee may not get the relevant records in possession of the Pope’s envoy to Canada, but there’s a chance he could get them of the accused.

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 listed in the lawsuit are the 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 application to British Columbia Supreme Court Master John Bilawich, O’Neill and attorney Sandra Kovacs sought an order for the Reverend Ian Jurkovic, the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, to hand over several folders.

Those included:

• 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;

• the investigation files resulting from an anonymous letter of May 1987 addressed to the nuncio by seminarians; and

• investigation files on sexual misconduct at the seminary.

In the alternative, O’Neill’s lawyer, Sandra Kovacs, had asked the abbey and the seminary to allow the nuncio to release the records.

Bilawich noted that the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development filed an indirect response on behalf of the nuncio. He provided a certificate dated April 19 stating that the records were inviolable under the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act and that as of August 27, 2021, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic is the papal ambassador and enjoys the diplomatic immunity.

Bilawich said he had no evidence that he had the power to order the nuncio to release documents.

“The request for an order requiring the Apostolic Nuncio to produce the categories of acts sought is rejected for lack of jurisdiction and on the basis of the inviolability of the archives of the Apostolic Nuncio,” he ruled.

Bilawich said the seminary and the abbey did not object to signing the requested permission, but said they were not aware of any further correspondence between them and the nuncio regarding the anonymous allegations.

“The lawyer expressed doubts that any authorization signed by his clients would result in the production of the document sought,” Bilawich said. But, Bilawich said, if any documents are produced, they must first go to lawyers at the abbey and the seminary for review.

“If they contain the names of alleged victims or members of their family other than the complainant, these names must be redacted until and unless the persons involved are notified and give their written consent to the disclosure. of their names or until a further court order permits such disclosure,” Bilawich said.

Allegations detail sexual and physical abuse

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 lawsuit.

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

O’Neill is one of three men to make such claims.

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