“To any person in our diocese or beyond who has experienced abuse by clergy or anyone else in the Church, I again express my profound sorrow and I apologize for what you have suffered, and for the betrayal, violation, and abandonment you have experienced.”
– Most Rev. Mark A. Hagemoen
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
In March 2020, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon provided a safeguarding action plan, titled Safer Church, Stronger Communities. The key goal of our plan was that our diocese and our churches be places of profound respect and safety for all peoples – especially the young and vulnerable.
Following upon the commitments made in March of last year, an Historical Case Review Process was launched. I am now providing a report that is the result of the work done by the Historical Case Review Committee, and I am also updating the Safer Church, Stronger Communities safeguarding action plan, as a result of the work and recommendations of the Policy and Operations Review Committee. These committees worked very hard over the last many months and featured the generous offering of expertise and time by lay professionals who represent various proficiencies and experiences required for the review processes. They also worked independently of my office, in order to provide an objective and unbiased review and set of recommendations. On behalf of the diocese of Saskatoon, I express my tremendous gratitude and appreciation for their work.
This work is extremely important and valued. Although we have come a long way in our efforts, there is much more to do. I am grateful for the very focused and specific guidance related to our 20 Commitments that fall under our four pillars: Outreach and Healing; Process of Reporting and Addressing Allegations; Policies and Training; and Expanding Safeguarding Culture.
I am also grateful for the report of the Historical Case Review Committee, which examined historical cases involving serious misconduct reported over the years in the diocese of Saskatoon. The committee found nine cases involving serious misconduct by persons in the service of the church within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. In addition, the report references two “non-historical” cases that are still under review.
To any person in our diocese or beyond who has experienced abuse by clergy or anyone else in the Church, I again express my profound sorrow and I apologize for what you have suffered, and for the betrayal, violation, and abandonment you have experienced.
I also apologize to all of our church whose faith and trust has been damaged because of the sinful actions of those who abused the innocent, and those who covered up such abuse. I recognize that both individual and institutional change must happen in our Church to move forward.
Words must be accompanied by substantial actions, and trust must be earned, not merely granted. It is my earnest commitment that this stage of developing our safeguarding action plan demonstrates that we are holding the bar very high in assuring that all our churches are safe and respectful communities.
I conclude by asking you to join me in praying that the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph will be our guide and encouragement as we continue to strive for holiness and build a culture that assures respect, safety, and support for all our people, especially the young and all vulnerable persons.
Yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Mark A. Hagemoen
Results of the Historical Case Review Committee
As a result of a commitment made in the March 2020 Safer Churches, Safer Communities Safeguarding Action Plan, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon undertook a review of historical cases involving serious misconduct reported over the last 60 years in the diocese. This review involved only those complaints where the investigation of the file was concluded. The Historical Case Review Committee included lay (non-clergy) members with a range of professional competencies, including members with legal and police investigative backgrounds.
Note on Definition of Terms and Parameters identified by the committee:
Under accepted investigative procedures, a file is “concluded” when all available investigative avenues have been pursued. A “concluded file” may involve the laying of criminal charges, internal discipline by the bishop (such as the removal of a priest from any public ministry), or the file being concluded due to insufficient evidence. The file may also be concluded if the complaint is determined to be unsubstantiated. In some cases, due to the passage of time, there were very few sources of information (for instance, witnesses or subjects may have died). There was insufficient investigation or documentation on some of the historic files. This creates difficulty in determining whether an incident or allegation is substantiated or not.
Any conclusions made by the investigator must follow the standard of reasonable belief, based on a diligent examination of all available evidence. Further, each alleged violation is separately addressed and assessed using a balance of probabilities. Matters being investigated might be substantiated (where the probability of an alleged incident is greater than 50 percent), unsubstantiated (where the probability of an alleged incident is less than 50 percent) or undetermined (where the probability of an alleged incident is found to be 50/50). A credible accusation is the appropriate term for a complaint that an investigator has deemed substantiated, thereby deeming the respondent as credibly accused. If an accusation is made, the respondent of the complaint should be given an opportunity to rebut the allegation. If the respondent of the complaint is incompetent due to age or is now deceased, there must be corroborating evidence to substantiate the complaint.
Of the concluded files that exist, where allegations of sexual abuse or serious misconduct were made to the diocese of Saskatoon, there were nine cases involving alleged serious misconduct by persons in service of the church within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. This summary also includes two “additional disclosed cases” not examined by the Historical Case Review Committee, but were nevertheless included to meet Commitment #12 of the Safer Church, Safer Communities Safeguarding Action Plan.
Seven priests are alleged to have committed serious misconduct or sexual abuse. Two laypersons (employees or volunteers of the diocese) are alleged to have committed serious misconduct or sexual abuse. One of those laypersons was a church employee who was alleged to have accessed pornography in the workplace.
The review process found ten known victims in these cases of serious misconduct or sexual abuse. One was a male youth under the age of 13 years. Five were teenage males. There was one adult male and three adult females. (Note: there were no Indian Residential Schools located within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.)
Note: To help ensure the anonymity of victims, these cases are listed neither alphabetically nor chronologically.
Case 1 – This case involved a priest, Fr. William Hodgson Marshall, CSB, who committed serious misconduct involving two teenage males during his time teaching at St. Paul’s High School in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. Now deceased, Marshall was a Basilian priest and teacher who also taught in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Toronto, and Windsor. He was convicted in 2011 of abusing 17 young people in Ontario, and sentenced to two years in prison and three years probation. In February 2012 charges were laid relating to indecent assault of two Saskatoon boys in 1959 and 1961 (who came forward as adults), to which Marshall pleaded guilty in 2013. He was sentenced to another six months of house arrest for the charges out of Saskatchewan. Marshall died in 2014 at the age of 92.
Case 2 – This case involved a diocesan priest, Fr. Ephraim Mensah, who was found to have committed serious misconduct under the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon’s Code of Conduct. No minors or children were involved. This case has been made public, per Commitment #12 of the March 2020 Safeguarding Action Plan. This disclosure was publicly communicated by the diocese on March 16, 2020, by posting on the diocesan website in response to news media inquiries. (Bishop’s Statement March 16, 2020 – LINK)
Case 3 – This case involved a priest who committed serious misconduct with an adult (no minors or children were involved). The name of this perpetrator is not being disclosed because it was determined that there was not sufficient evidence to support a credible accusation (See note about Terms and Parameters, above). The priest is now deceased and the investigation conducted at the time of receipt was insufficient to constitute a credible accusation.
Case 4 – This case involved a priest who committed serious misconduct with a male youth under the age of 13. The name of this perpetrator is not being disclosed because it was determined that there was not sufficient evidence to support a credible accusation (see note about Terms and Parameters, above). The priest is now deceased and the investigation conducted at the time of receipt was insufficient to constitute a credible accusation.
Case 5 – This case involved a priest who committed serious misconduct with a teenage male. The name of this perpetrator is not being disclosed because it was determined that there was not sufficient evidence to support a credible accusation (see note about Terms and Parameters, above). The priest is now deceased and the investigation conducted at the time of receipt was insufficient to constitute a credible accusation.
Case 6 – This case involved a priest who originated from outside of Canada made an inappropriate advance to two women. Following an investigation of the allegation, the priest was promptly removed from the parish and was recalled to his home country. The bishop in his home diocese was advised of the reason for the removal from Canada. Out of respect for the victims’ wishes, the priest’s name is not being disclosed because the complainants are strongly opposed to any public disclosure.
Case 7 – This case involved a priest who committed a series of sexual assaults on a teenage male within a span of three years. Out of respect for the victim’s wishes, the priest’s name is not being released because the victim (who is now an adult) did not wish to contact the police and is strongly opposed to any public disclosure. It may be disclosed, however, that this priest who committed the serious misconduct is elderly and no longer active in ministry.
Case 8 – This case involved a volunteer layperson, who sexually abused a teenage boy. The perpetrator met the victim in the context of volunteering at a local parish. The sexual assault occurred at a later date. Mr. Harold Jones was charged, convicted, and sentenced to eight years imprisonment (reported March 15, 2008 in the media).
Case 9 – This case involved a parish employee who was alleged to have accessed pornography on a computer at the local parish, which is a Code of Conduct violation under the diocese’s safeguarding policies. The employee’s name is not being released as he concluded his employment with the diocese shortly after this incident of serious misconduct, and he is now deceased.
Additional Disclosed Cases not examined by the Historical Case Review Committee
Two cases were not examined by the Historical Case Review Committee, as they were deemed not yet historical. These two cases are disclosed publicly according to commitment #12 in the diocese’s Safer Church, Stronger Communities Safeguarding Action Plan.
Case 10 – This case involves a priest, Fr. Anthony Atter, who was charged with sexual assault, sexual interference, and sexual exploitation. According to the RCMP, the alleged abuse occurred between Sept. 1 and Nov. 4, 2020. Formerly pastor of St. Ann, Annaheim, SK, St. Gregory, St. Gregor, SK, and St. Anthony, Lake Lenore, SK, this priest is unassigned and is awaiting a hearing in the Humboldt Provincial Court. (Bishop’s Statement Dec 16th, 2020 – LINK)
Case 11 – This case involves a priest, Fr. Michael Yaremko, who has been found to have committed “serious misconduct” pursuant to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon’s Code of Conduct. No minors or children were involved. Fr. Yaremko was formerly the associate pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Humboldt, Saskatchewan. He has been removed from active ministry. This disclosure was publicly communicated by the diocese on March 16, 2020, by posting on the diocesan website in response to news media inquiries. (Bishop’s Statement March 16, 2020 – LINK)
Updates to our Safeguarding Action Plan, Safer Church, Stronger Communities
The RCDOS is dedicated to creating and fostering a culture where safeguarding is a foundational principle in all planning, decisions, and activities of the diocese. All clergy, staff, and volunteers are co-responsible for safeguarding as part of our church’s mission. In light of this, have updated our Safeguarding Action plan.
All additions and/or edits as of July 14, 2021 are coloured purple, bolded, and italicized below.
Outreach and Healing
[No changes have been made to Commitments 1-6, under “Outreach and Healing”]
Process of Reporting and Addressing Allegations of Serious Misconduct and Sexual Abuse
7. We commit to an intake process that is clear, straight-forward, and confidential.
a. Intake Officers are available and contact information is listed at rcdos.ca/report-abuse. Male and female Intake Officers will always be available as contact options. We commit to an immediate response to allegations within 48 hours. We will work to implement a 24-hour hotline for those who wish to remain anonymous when reporting serious misconduct or sexual abuse.
c. To especially support those who may come forward presenting allegations of abuse or seeking advice and support, we commit to reviewing and altering our existing intake and investigation processes to become more complainant-focused, simplified, and accessible.
8. We have undertaken a review process of all historical files currently underway, led by a committee of qualified people who are independent of the bishop’s office and the diocesan curia. The committee’s historical case review included all clergy, past and present, including those who have died.
9. We commit to ongoing support and resources for the independent Victim Support Coordinator, who has been appointed, to provide healing support and guidance for those who identify as victims of sexual abuse. The roles of Victim Support Coordinator and Intake Officer will be fulfilled by separate persons unless otherwise requested by the complainant.
10. We commit to rigorous record-keeping and documenting allegations of any and all serious or sexual misconduct in the files of clergy members, church employees, and church volunteers.
12. We commit to publicly identifying the names of clergy and church employees who have been found guilty of sexual abuse or other serious misconduct in a court of law or through the diocese’s own safeguarding investigative process, subject to privacy laws and/or publication bans or non-disclosure agreements. We commit to careful consultation with victims or representatives of victims prior to the public identification of names.
Policies & Training in the Diocese
15. We commit that all clergy, church employees, and volunteers who interact with children and vulnerable adults will:
f) identify individual clergy and laity as designated persons trained in trauma support and accompaniment. We will make these resources available online at rcdos.ca as they become available.
17. We commit to coordinating our efforts, and sharing our working practices, with major Catholic organizations in Canada, including:
a. the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Saskatchewan
b. the Assembly of Western Catholic Bishops
c. the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
*note: the order of these organizations in Canada was reversed to reflect the special need to work in solidarity and co-operation with the other dioceses in Saskatchewan.*
Expanding Safeguarding Culture
20. We will continue to advocate for a culture of respect and safety – especially for young and vulnerable persons. We will seek to form innovative partnerships with schools, lay ministries, and other agencies to respond to the problems of exploitation and violence against human persons by providing tailored and ongoing education and awareness on:
a) parenting in a digital age
b) children’s Internet and technology safety
c) pornography exposure and addictions
d) the dangers of clericalism
e) moving from exploitation to a culture of respect and safety
1. Why has it taken the Catholic Church so long to address the issue of sexual abuse by priests?
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon and the Catholic dioceses throughout Canada have worked steadily over the last 30 years to develop and implement policies to protect the young and the vulnerable. Even one case of abuse is too many! In Saskatoon, we recognize we have made mistakes in the past, and we are resolved to intensify our efforts to protect more forcefully, to respond more effectively, and to promote healing. The work of the Safeguarding Committee, and more recently the Historic Case Review Committee and the Policy and Operations Committee – have been important and significant developments in our diocese over the last three years.
2. Why are the numbers so low in Saskatoon compared to Vancouver, and large American dioceses such as New York, Philadelphia, and other jurisdictions in the U.S.?
Every local diocese has its own history of leadership and some distinct local laws and values. Saskatoon is a much smaller diocese and with a shorter history. The diocese of Saskatoon has approximately 95,000 Catholics, while Vancouver has approximately 443,000; New York approximately 2.6 million Catholics; Philadelphia approximately 1.4 million Catholics. It is also possible that some victims/ survivors may have been afraid to report. We want all victims/survivors to know there are policies in place to protect them and if they wish to come forward, all incidents will be heard, investigated and treated with respect.
3. Did the Case Review Committee look at everything?
Yes, they reviewed every file concerning serious misconduct, including sexual abuse.
4. Are there priests who have been found guilty of sexual abuse/ assault still working in ministry in Saskatoon?
5. What happens to the priests who are removed from ministry?
Church law has changed in the past decade to allow them to be much more readily “removed from the clerical state” or “defrocked.” In cases where that change is not possible, a priest removed from ministry can be given strict restrictions (for example: no contact with children, no access to social media, no right to wear clerical garb, no right to say Mass).
6. Are there any priests — who have not been charged or convicted but who are strongly suspected of having abused others, whether children or adults — who are currently ministering in other dioceses?
Not to our knowledge.
7. Once a priest and/or lay employee has been accused, what happens?
A priest who has been accused is placed on leave, and if the complaints involve children, police are notified immediately. As well, complainants are offered counselling by a qualified third-party counsellor at the expense of the diocese. Before 2019, the protocol for the review of accusations involved priests delegated by the bishop for the purpose of investigating complaints. In 2019, and confirmed in the ‘Safeguarding Action Plan’ released in March 2020, a new policy mandated lay persons to this task. If a priest or lay employee is found to have committed a criminal offence, responsibility for pursuing charges lies with the public justice system. If the individual is charged and ultimately found guilty, he/she will be removed from ministry. In the case of a priest, he will also be given strict restrictions. If the offence is not criminal in nature but has been damaging and hurtful, the independent investigator will recommend to the bishop whether the conduct merits removal from or restriction in ministry or work in the diocese.
8. Why cannot the diocese readily release names and files of all clergy or church employee abusers?
Canada has ten provinces and three territories, all of which have their own legislation regarding privacy and defamation issues. Unlike British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec, Saskatchewan has no specific privacy legislation for organizations operating in the private sector. Instead, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) applies to the private sector. Defamation laws throughout Canada and the U.S. are also applied differently. Publicized reports from U.S. dioceses over the last few years operate within the context of the related legislation in their state.
Many observers note that websites such as the “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests” (SNAP) publish names of the ‘probably guilty’ and wonder why the diocese cannot. This is because these third-party organizations are not an employer of these priests/ employees, and thus privacy legislation does not apply to them.
In addition, the diocese commits to careful consultation with victims or representatives of victims prior to the public identification of names. (Safer Church, Stronger Communities #12)
9. Were religious orders who historically worked in the diocese part of the historical review?
If there were cases of serious misconduct that related to religious clergy assigned to working in the diocese, and these were in the diocese’s files, then yes, these were reviewed. However, the scope of the historical case review did not involve reviewing historical records held only by religious orders.
10. Do victims have to sign confidentiality agreements or are they prevented in any way from speaking openly if they wish to?
The last time a confidentiality agreement was signed was in the early 1990s. Such agreements have not been used in almost 30 years and the diocese has waived any agreements that were previously signed. The diocese will respect and take into consideration the wishes of victims.
11. Will the new victim support process be run by professionals trained in the area?
Yes, the Victim/Survivor Support service will be staffed by on-call professional(s) with certification as psychologists, registered clinical counsellors, or registered social workers.
12. What has the diocese learned about being “victim / survivor focussed”?
The diocese has learned a great deal about the meaning of being ‘victim/survivor focussed’, and we know there is still much more to learn. One of our commitments is to move from working “…for victims” to working “…with victims”. We are also learning that victims/ survivors have a great variety of circumstances and desires in terms of how they are supported, whether abusers are publicly named, the weighing of transparency versus the need for confidentiality, and ways in which re-traumatization of victims occurs. This commitment to being “victim / survivor focussed” is probably the most important and challenging commitment that our diocese is undertaking.
13. How can victims be assured that these promised changes will take effect?
The current response includes deadlines as a sign of the very serious commitment of the Bishop and all his co-workers. Ongoing auditing (Commitment #14b) of the diocese’s policies and protocols related to safeguarding will be done by an external auditor at four-year intervals.
14. I am a victim who has never reported. What can I do?
We are so sorry for what has happened to you. Please know that the diocese of Saskatoon is committed to listening to you and responding to you. We invite you to come forward if you wish to share your report with the diocese. If a crime was committed you are encouraged to also contact police.
Contact information for reporting abuse to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon:
- Anne E. Williams, BSW, RSW, SEP, at (306) 220-0448 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Father Marvin Lishchynsky, Judicial Vicar, at (306) 659-5825 or toll free at 1-877-661-5005 Extension *825 or email@example.com
As of Spring 2020, a new service was established in the diocese of Saskatoon, which features designated ‘intake officers’ who receive any complaints.
During and following the investigation process either by the diocese or by the police, a “Victim Support Coordinator” provides initial and ongoing support and information to the complainant.
In the case of a complaint/ allegation received by the Intake Officer of the diocese – and if the complaint is determined ‘not criminal’ – the complaint is forwarded to an “investigator” who conducts his/her investigation independent of the bishop’s office. The findings of the investigator are then communicated to the bishop, who then brings the investigator’s result to:
1) the Safeguarding Committee Chair or representative;
2) the Director of Safeguarding;
3) The College of Consultors.
The bishop then makes a decision about acceptance of the investigator’s findings. (This process is outlined at: Serious-Misconduct-Apr30-2020.pdf)
15. Why was the abuse reported in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission not addressed by this committee?
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission did years of thorough collaborative work. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon did not run residential schools, nor were any residential schools located in the diocese, and therefore these are not a part of our history and records. A summary of the related report from the TRC may be found here.