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'I loved him,' B.C. man says of priest who allegedly sexually abused him

A 55-year-old man recalls grabbing a knife after the alleged abuse, thinking "I'm going to cut his throat." He says he was six years old at the time.
The trial is expected to take 19 days.

Warning: This story may be distressing to some readers.

A B.C. man who says a North Vancouver priest and a coach sexually abused him has testified he became close to the clergyman before the abuse began.

“I loved him,” the 55-year-old man testified in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster on Feb. 5.

The man, whose name is covered by a publication ban, told Justice Catherine Murray his father had been killed in a dock accident on the day of his sixth birthday party.

Under questioning from his lawyer, Sandra Kovacs, the man said he was still grieving when he began attending the school at North Vancouver’s Holy Trinity Parish.

Known as John Doe in court documents, the man said he first went to Father John Kilty’s residence to get a pop.

“I found a tremendous amount of comfort in him,” the man testified. “I felt very safe, something that was missing from my life.”

“He craved a father,” Kovacs said.

He said as he and Kilty grew closer, the priest began to develop deeper connections with his family as well.

It was when the man was six, that Kilty arranged a sleepover at Kilty’s home.

He was given some pop.

“It was off,” he said. “It didn’t taste like pop.”

He said Kilty began tickling him and told him to take his shirt off.

Soon, Kilty moved the boy to his bed.

“I didn’t want him to not like me but my body’s completely refusing,” he said.

He said Kilty fell asleep but the six-year-old got up. He went outside but was disoriented and went into the kitchen.

“I think I grabbed a steak knife. I’m going to cut out his throat,” he told the court. “I wanted to go home.” 

The next day was a school day but the boy was late.

“I rolled up in a ball,” he said. “I [didn't] know what to do with this.”

He said his usually free access to Kilty changed after that, something he called “heartbreaking.”

He testified to other incidents of fondling and groping.

The man said he developed a disgust of himself after the alleged abuse.

He said he changed schools but would have “a lot of frequent intense outbursts.” He would be kicked out of class and spend hours in the hallway, he told the judge.

And, when the time came for his first confession, he was terrified.

“To me, it was being alone in the room with a priest,” he said. “This was my presumption, that I would have to do sex things.”

He also feared changing in public for activities such as gym.

“I was constantly on alert for sexual danger,” he said.

Raymond Clavin

Also named as a defendant in the suit is Raymond Clavin.

The man testified he’s unsure how Clavin came into his family’s life. He became someone who was helpful to the struggling family, gave the children rides and other things, the court heard.

The man testified Clavin raped him.

After the first incident, he said he was “bawling in the car” and Clavin was screaming at him.

“His method of control is complete terror,” he testified of Clavin. “I want to say it happened more than once but I can’t be sure.”

He said Clavin threatened to hurt his mother and family.

Kilty and the community

Kovacs is expecting various witnesses to testify about Kilty and his standing in the Lower Mainland Roman Catholic community.

“He was adored and revered by the community,” she said. “Kilty ruled over his parish.”

But, she said, “Father Kilty was abusing children long before the plaintiff arrived on the scene.”

Kovacs said testimony will also detail the close relationship Kilty had as an advisor to former Vancouver Archbishop James Carney.

She further told the court a person allegedly sexually abused in 1967 will testify to a parish culture of “see no evil hear no evil.”

The allegations

The man is suing the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver (RCAV), a Corporation Sole, the Catholic Independent Schools of Vancouver (CISVA) and the estates of two men.

He alleges in documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court Oct. 23, 2020 that Kilty, now dead, committed multiple acts of sexual assault and battery on him when he was six in 1974-75.

The church has admitted Kilty, who died in 1987, was an ordained priest of the archdiocese at all material times and served as parish pastor from 1948-1982.

The man further alleged Clavin, whose status is unknown, committed similar acts. The suit said Clavin was a former Christian Brothers pupil and coach, teacher or employee of CISVA.

Kovacs said Clavin’s whereabouts is unknown.

Kovacs said the man’s mother had told her children Clavin had raped her.

It remains to be seen how some of the man’s testimony will be heard.

There is a possibility of the more sensitive evidence being given in a closed courtroom. However, in favour of the open court principle, the possibility remains the man could testify from behind a screen or from another location. The reasons given is that testifying about such details with an audience could be traumatizing.

The case

Kovacs outlined her case for the judge in her opening address to the court.

She said four bishops are expected to testify starting Feb. 23, including one, Lawrence Sabatini, who is currently resisting coming to B.C. from California where he currently resides.

Kovacs said one of those clerics, Bishop Stephen Jensen of Prince George, was an altar boy at the church and has memories of Kilty and Clavin together.

Saskatoon Bishop Mark Hagemoen, also an altar boy, is also expected to testify about Clavin’s temper and how Kilty moderated that temper.

Members of the man’s family are also expected to testify but their identities will be covered by the publication ban so as not to identify him.

Kovacs said Thomas Doyle, an expert on Roman Catholic canon law, will testify about sexual violence and how rooted it is in the Roman Catholic Church.

“He will tell you that clerical sodomy of young boys has been accepted in the Roman Catholic Church since the fourth century,” Kovacs said.

The trial is expected to take 19 days.

Archdiocese admissions and denials

The RCAV has admitted in court documents sexual abuse of a man by Kilty and Clavin, and its vicarious liability for those harms.

It has, however, denied negligence for acting in any way that could attract punitive damages.

The plaintiff has claimed the church and associated school system “were complicit in a culture of entrenched clericalism that enabled perpetrators of sexual abuse to continue to commit their grievous crimes, and wherein witnesses, complainants and whistleblowers were silenced.”

The archdiocese has also denied that claim.

The case continues Feb. 6.