Bishop’s Letter

“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


Bishop's Letter - PDF

[spacer height=”10px”]Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon [spacer height=”5px”] Office of the Bishop [spacer height=”5px”] 123 Nelson Rd [spacer height=”5px”] Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7S 1H1 [spacer height=”30px”] July 21, 2021

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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,

 [spacer height=”1px”]Most Rev. Mark A. Hagemoen [spacer height=”5px”]

Historical Case Review Results - PDF

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Results of the Historical Case Review Committee

SUMMARY

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.)

CASE-BY-CASE ANALYSIS

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)

Safeguarding Action Plan Updates - PDF

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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.

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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

Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions - PDF