The Roman Catholic Church has been plagued with sex-abuse scandals from time immemorial and although the Vatican has publicly apologized to victims on several occasions, little is done to sanction clergy members who commit such heinous acts.
This time around a Canadian priest has confessed to molesting the very children he took an oath to protect. William Hodgson Marshall, 88, also known as Father Hod, was sentenced by a Windsor court to two years imprisonment for molesting sixteen people—one female and fifteen male.
Marshall was ordained in 1951 at the age of 28 and was known as an exemplary priest, a championship basketball coach and a teacher for half a century. Now he is a registered sex offender. His victims range from former students to children of his parishioners. The earliest charge dates back to 1953.
In 1989, Marshall arrived in St Lucia to do missionary work. He was attached to the St Benedict’s parish at Morne Fortune and also helped to establish the Holy Family Children’s Home in Ciceron. He was removed from St Lucia in 1996, when allegations of abuse began surfacing in Canada.
Most of the Marshall’s victims in this case were students at all-boys’ high schools run by the congregation of St Basil’s, a Roman Catholic order of teaching priests also known as the Basilian Fathers.
According to the Windsor Star, most of the victims were in Grade 9, but one was only seven-years-old. Another, the only female victim, was in her 20s. Marshall would call them out of class and have them line up outside his office for groping sessions he called “workouts.” Sometimes he would abuse boys in the presence of another student.
“This is God’s way,” he’d say. “It pleases him and will help you get into the kingdom of heaven.”
Sometimes other teachers or priests would walk in thinking the room was empty. They’d quickly shut the door, leave and become part of what the victims call “the cover-up.”
The Basilians issued a statement from spokesperson Rev. Timothy Scott that read in part: “The Basilian Fathers wish to express our deep shame that one of our members has acted this way. These criminal acts against children are a violation of our religious vows and are grievously sinful . . . This should never have happened.”
A joint sentencing submission from the crown and Marshall’s lawyer Andrew Bradie requests a two-year prison term, three years probation and an order to report to the sexual offender information registry and provide a DNA sample. Marshall may be eligible for parole after serving one-third of his sentence — eight months.
Marshall’s string of sexual assaults on children went unreported for nearly 60 years until a 43-year-old Windsor man complained to police in May of 2010. From there, more victims began to come forward. It is believed Marshall has many more victims who have not yet come forward.
Marshall, who is battling skin cancer, worked at Windsor’s Assumption College and St Mike’s in the 1950s. He then moved to Sudbury’s St Charles College, where he worked for nearly two decades. His next stop was as principal at St Mary’s College in Sault Ste Marie before returning to Windsor in 1985. There, he was the founding principal of Holy Names.
Marshall remains a priest. He has not been laicized (defrocked) and there appears no move to initiate that process with the Vatican, which oversees expulsions. Rev Scott said there is little point in defrocking Marshall now, given his
age and the fact he will never serve as a practising priest again.
When Marshall gets out of prison, he will return to the Cardinal Flahiff Basilian Centre in Toronto, which offers a treatment program for clerics with psychological or spiritual problems. Marshall was placed there after the Basilians extracted him
from St Lucia.