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B.C. Catholic Church settles lawsuit alleging priest, teacher sexually abused 6-year-old boy

The plaintiff says he was repeatedly abused by Father John Kilty while he was a student at Holy Trinity Elementary School in North Vancouver, B.C. (Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver) The plaintiff says he was repeatedly abused by Father John Kilty while he was a student at Holy Trinity Elementary School in North Vancouver, B.C. (Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver)
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Warning: This story is about the sexual abuse of a child and may be disturbing to readers.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vancouver has settled a lawsuit brought by a B.C. man who says he was groomed and sexually assaulted by a priest and a teacher at North Vancouver's Holy Trinity Elementary School when he was six years old.

The settlement was reached Tuesday, the seventh day of a trial in which plaintiff "John Doe" described his alleged abuse at the hands of Father John Kilty and teacher Raymond Clavin in the 1970s.

Before the civil trial began, the church admitted the abuse occurred, and admitted its vicarious liability for the men's actions. However, the church denied that it knew or ought to have known at the time that the priest and teacher posed a risk to young boys in the community.

Victim violated in 'various and severe' ways

Kilty, who died in 1983, was the pastor at Holy Trinity Catholic Church from 1948 until 1982 and coached the boys' basketball team at Holy Trinity Elementary School.

Clavin, who is believed to be living in Europe but "cannot be located and has not participated in these proceedings," according to the plaintiff's lawyer, was a teacher and coach at the elementary school when the plaintiff was a young student.

Doe alleged he was repeatedly and violently sexually assaulted by both men in a co-ordinated manner, which included forced fellatio and anal penetration. He also claimed the priest drugged him and the teacher threatened to harm him.

"John Doe was targeted by both Kilty and Clavin when he was just six years old as a Grade 1 student at Holy Trinity Elementary School in North Vancouver, in 1974-1975," Doe's lawyers said in a statement Tuesday. "Both men sexually violated the young boy in various and severe ways, including penetrative rape."

Plaintiff underwent MDMA, psilocybin treatment

The plaintiff says he has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental-health issues in the 50 years since that time. He sought a host of punitive and special damages from the church, as well as compensation for lost earning capacity as a result of the trauma.

"I cannot find the right words to explain how the sexual abuse I endured at age six has impacted my life," Doe said in a statement after the settlement was reached.

"The stain of these traumatic events has permeated all facets of my life experience and caused me immense suffering, including a period of profound suicidality. I am fortunate to have survived that darkness – and improved – with the help of innovative pioneering treatments, including MDMA and psilocybin-assisted therapies."

In December 2020, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver publicly acknowledged that it had reached a financial settlement with one of several men who had accused Kilty of sexual assault when they were minors in the 1970s. The church says it only became aware of the first allegations against Kilty in 2003, two decades after the priest died.

In its initial response to Doe's lawsuit, the church denied there was an operational culture within the organization that enabled Kilty and Clavin to sexually abuse male children at the school and at Holy Trinity Catholic Church.

The church had also claimed that if Doe suffered injury or damage as a result of abuse, he failed to take steps to mitigate the injury, such as seeking counselling, medication or physical therapy.

Settlement 'reflects gravity' of harm

Mallory K. Hogan, one of Doe's lawyers in the case, said Wednesday that her plaintiff has chosen not to disclose the monetary terms of the settlement.

"What I can say is that the outcome was extremely favourable and the settlement amount reflects the gravity of my client's harms and losses, as well as the risk of punitive damages being awarded against the archdiocese for its very obvious wilful blindness," Hogan said in a statement to CTV News.

The trial, which was presided over by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Murray, was scheduled to last four weeks in a New Westminster courtroom.

"I did not appreciate how much freedom and gratitude I would feel after having the opportunity to be fully heard by an impartial and compassionate judge in a court of law," Doe said in his statement.

"I am deeply thankful to our justice system, and by extension to my fellow Canadians, that I had access to this system in which I could seek recompense for a deeply intimate and grievous injury," he added.

"While the process was difficult and triggering, the defendant did in the end come to the table and this resolution allows me to put my connection with that institution in the proverbial rear-view mirror."

In a similar civil case heard last month, a former Victoria public school student was awarded more than $2.3 million in damages from the estate of a former school tutor who sexually abused him as a child, representing the "highest compensatory damages award for sexual abuse in Canada," according to Hogan.

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