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'The abuse I suffered left me a broken man': B.C. man sues Catholic priest, seminary over alleged sexual abuse

Last Updated Oct 20, 2019 at 1:59 pm PDT

(The Christ the King Seminary in Mission, B.C. via Google street view)
Summary

Fr. Harold Sander, also known as Fr. Placidus, was acquitted of six sex offences after a two week trial in 1997

The priest is being sued by one of the complainants in that trial who alleges he was sexually assaulted three times

The alleged abuse occurred at the Christ the King Seminary in Mission in the 1970s

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A man who testified against a Catholic priest during a sexual assault trial in Chilliwack in the 1990s says he has found the courage to take him to court again.

Fr. Harold Sander, also known as Fr. Placidus, was acquitted of six sex offences after a two week trial in 1997.

Now, he is being sued by one of the complainants in that trial.

“The criminal process revictimized me. I was in a dark place for a long time after,” says a press release issued by the man, who NEWS 1130 is not naming. “Twenty years on I have found the courage to come forward again. I am hopeful that through this civil action I will find truth and justice.”

The man, who is now in his 50s, says he suffered sexual abuse at the Christ the King Seminary in Mission in the 1970s. The seminary is an all boys high school and college. Students live on the campus.

Court documents say he was about 13 years old, and living in the dorms, in 1974 when Fr. Emerick Lazar, who was employed at the seminary, broke his arm.

He alleges that when he was injured Fr. Placidus fondled his genitals while giving him a sponge bath in the infirmary. The claim goes on to say that Fr. Placidus also touched his genitals the following year when he was in bed.

“Instead of receiving an upbringing that would have been in keeping with my family’s faith and trust in the Roman Catholic Church, I was psychologically, physically and spiritually abused by more than one perpetrator,” the victim says.

During the 1997 criminal trial, three complainants testified against Fr. Placidus. Another former student told the court he had been sexually assaulted in Fr. Placidus’s office, after an art class. The judge in the case said evidence given by the three men was unreliable. Fr. Placidus took the stand during the trial, and admitted to having a consensual sex with an 18-year-old seminary student on one occasion in the 1980s. He also recalled kissing one student on the lips twice.

Further allegations of abuse, negligence

In addition to Fr. Placidus, the complainant is suing Fr. Lazar, as well as a person identified as John Doe, a Benedictine priest who was overseeing construction of the seminary’s gym-auditorium in the 1970s. The complainant alleges that priest had him perform some labour on the project without a harness, and as a result he alleges he was injured during a fall.

A fourth man is also named in the lawsuit. The complainant alleges Shawn Rohrback, a college student employed at the seminary in the late ’70s, plied him with alcohol before performing a sex act on the complainant during a hiking trip. The lawsuit also alleges Rohrback tried to rape him a year later.

All of these men were “persons in a position of trust, power and/or authority” according to the lawsuit.

“The abuse I suffered left me a broken man,” says the victim. The affects outlined in court documents include PTSD, depression, anxiety, and sexual dysfunction. He says the abuse led to a loss of connection to his faith and lifelong problems with trust and intimacy.

The lawsuit also names “institutional defendants,” alleging the a systemic failure to protect him from the abuse and to hold the perpetrators accountable.

The Christ the King Seminary, The Roman Catholic Archbishop, and Westminster Abbey Ltd. are all alleged to have been negligent.

Fr. Placidus, now in his 90s, still lives at the seminary in Mission.