“Playboy” priest moved to New York parishes, Canadian Forces job

“In my 30 years, the number of priests who were sexual offenders were very few,” Archbishop Adam Exner tells court in woman's lawsuit over allegations of sexual abuse by former Kamloops priest Erlindo Molon

A Kamloops priest suspended for alleged sexual offences was later suspended in New York State before becoming a Canadian Armed Forces chaplain, B.C. Supreme Court heard Oct. 18.

The court has heard that Kamloops Roman Catholic Archdiocese officials knew of the sexual activities of Father Erlindo Molon before a schoolteacher reported several months of abuse at the man’s hands in 1977.

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Rosemary Anderson alleged in a Dec. 22, 2016, notice of civil claim the sexual abuse at the hands of Molon, now 88, started when she was 26 when she sought solace after her father’s death. She names Molon and the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Kamloops, A Corporation Sole in the claim.

Molon was two decades her senior.

Anderson testified last week she had sought help from Molon dealing with grief from her father’s death in 1976, and that Molon began groping her in his office.

She said as she was leaving Molon’s office, “he embraced me, then began fondling me. He shoved his ugly tongue in my mouth. I hated it. I prayed to God to stop it.”

Then, she said, Molon took her hand and led her into the adjoining bedroom, where they had intercourse.

Anderson testified earlier the sexual abuse happened “on an average, I’d say, two or three times a week.”

The decision on what to do with Molon sat with then-bishop Adam Exner, later archbishop of Winnipeg and Vancouver. After hearing Anderson’s tale, he suspended Molon from priestly duties.

 Exner told Justice David Crossin he did consider laicizingor removing Molon’s priestly powers.

That he said, would involve an application to the Vatican.

About six months after the suspension, Exner got a letter from Vancouver Archbishop James Carney asking about a suspended priest who had celebrated a mass at St. Joseph’s parish in Vancouver.

Anderson’s lawyer, Sandra Kovacs, asked Exner if he had warned other church officials about Molon.

“What am I supposed to do? “ Exner asked. “Warn every church in Canada and beyond?”

Asked if he could have extended the suspension beyond Kamloops, Exner said he was not a canon lawyer – an expert in church law.

Kovacs suggested he could have asked an archdiocese for help.

“I didn’t think I needed to go that far,” Exner said.

Then, in 1981, Bishop of Nelson Emmett Doyle received a letter from the diocese in Rockville Centre, New York, asking about Molon.

Exner wrote back saying Molon was suspended because of “totally unacceptable” activities.

Asked why he had asked the New York diocese to keep the matter confidential, Exner said, “to avoid scandal.”

(Rockville Centre is one of several dioceses currently facing potential bankruptcy under the weight of child sex abuse scandal legal actions.)

Then, a letter arrived from Pastor William Singleton in East Rockaway, New York, saying Molon has also been suspended there.

Kovacs suggested to Exner that he took phone calls from two priests saying Molon had been involved in sexual assaults in the state.

“I cannot remember a phone call giving me any details,” Exner said. “I wasn’t surprised. That was his [Molon’s] pattern.”

Exner did, though, remember a letter saying Molon would return to Canada and take a position with the armed forces.

“Did you write to the Department of National Defence and tell them he’s a serial offender?” Kovacs asked.

“I should have,” Exner said.

Anderson has testified Exner told her to leave Kamloops, evidence he flatly denied.

“I did not ask her to leave,” Exner said from the witness stand. I do not remember asking her to leave.”

Kovacs suggested Exner’s interest was preventing a scandal.

“She was a constant reminder of the scandal if she stayed?” Kovacs asked.

“That’s correct,” Exner said.

And, Exner said, Molon was not the only problem priest he had to deal with. Most issues were alcohol related, he said.

“In my 30 years, the number of priests who were sexual offenders were very few,” Exner said.

He said he never reported any of them to police.

Asked what he saw in those who had been violated by such priests, Exner said, “Pain. Pain and confusion. Deep pain. Woundedness.”

 

Priest confronted

After Anderson reported the abuse to Exner, he confronted Molon and offered him treatment for his sexual issues as a priest. He suspended Molon in October 1977.

Exner said he had also written to Molon’s bishop in his native Philippines asking for him to be recalled. He said Molon ignored that.

“I believe it would have been good for him to leave Canada,” said Exner who has called Molon “promiscuous” and “a playboy.”

Molon had suggested marriage, and Anderson went to see Exner about it, a course of action Exner discouraged.

With Molon unrepentant about his behaviour and refusing offers of treatment for sexual issues, Exner revoked his permission to serve as a priest.

“Molon was guilty of sexual offenses?” Anderson’s lawyer Sandra Kovacs asked Exner.

“Yes,” the archbishop said.

“He admitted to sexual offenses?” Kovacs asked.

“Yes,’ Exner replied.

“He was a serial offender?”

“Yes.”

Kovacs asked if there were other Kamloops women involved and how many.

 “I suspect there were,” he said. “I never knew how many.”

With Anderson, though, the Molon situation was no longer just rumours. There were now accusations.

Exner testified he faced several choices. He said he wanted to help Molon but also suspended him.

But, he said, it was not a step he wanted to take. He said he needed Molon because “there was an acute shortage of priests.”

“People loved him. He preached well. He was very kind to people. Externally, he was a model priest in many ways,” Exner said. “There was two sides to him.”

“He had gone off the rails,” he said.

Exner conceded to Crossin he could have done more for Anderson.

“I should have offered her help,” he said. “I agree that I failed there.”

But, when Kovacs asked Exner if he believed the treatment of Anderson had been sinful, church lawyer John Hogg objected.

Instead, Crossin suggested Anderson and Exner meet to discuss that between themselves, an invitation both accepted.

Kovacs told the court earlier Molon misused his position of power and trust in the alleged assaults in 1976 and 1977.

“Bishop Exner was Father Molon’s direct superior,” Kovacs said, adding church law required him to investigate the allegations.

Exner reiterated that he had no desire to be a bishop but had to obey the church. He said he had no administrative experience and studied very little canon law at Rome’s Gregorian University.

“I had no experience of what it means to be a bishop,” he said. “I walked in no man’s land and that was kind of scary.”

Glacier Media requested Molon’s military records from the Department of National Defence under federal access to information laws in February but has yet to receive any records.

 

jhainsworth@glaciermedia.ca

@jhainswo

 

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