Archbishop Robert Rivas, has declined to comment on the case of a clergyman who was recently sentenced by a Canadian court to two years imprisonment, after he admitted multiple charges of child molestation.
William Hodgson Marshall, 88, also known as Father Hod, was ordained in 1951. He admitted before a Windsor Court that the molestation began just two years later. In 1989, Marshall arrived in St Lucia to do missionary work. He was attached to the St Benedict’s parish at Morne Fortune and in that time helped to establish the Holy Family Children’s Home, in Ciceron. He was removed from St Lucia in 1996, when allegations of abuse started surfacing in Canada.
Parishioners of St Benedict’s have mixed recollections about Father Hod. Some were
flabbergasted by his admissions. “But he was always so kind,” they said.
Others were hardly surprised: “I always felt there was something a little off about him.” But nearly everyone praised him for his “compassion and foresight.” When it came to credit for the Holy Family’s Children’s Home, however, there was totally harmony: Without William Hodgson Marshall, it would never have materialized.
Before running the story of the priest’s conviction, the STAR made several futile efforts to contact the Archbishop Rivas. After the story was published on June 25, the STAR continued its attempts to reach Rivas at his office. When finally we reached his secretary she agreed to seek on our behalf an interview with the Archbishop.
We made several follow-up calls and then just last Friday we were told that the Archbishop had refused to speak to the STAR because “we had already made up our minds.” The STAR later discovered that the Archbishop had taken issue with our headline: Children’s Home Priest Admits Sex Offenses!
Sources close to the local Roman Catholic Church are of the opinion the Archbishop would have spoken to the STAR but for the fact that we had reported the fact that Marshall had admitted the charges against him. They noted the Archbishop had spoken to a reporter from a local station before Marshall’s conviction. The STAR’s story of Marshall’s sentence, our sources tell us, amounted in the eyes of the Archbishop to an indictment of the priesthood.
Second-hand information can be misleading. We will therefore reserve comment about what the Archbishop may be thinking. However: It wasn’t so long ago that the Archbishop was reassuring Saint Lucians that sexual molestation by his priests would not be tolerated in his time. On the other hand, rather than advising complainants to go to the police, the Archbishop suggested reports be made to church authorities. Considering this is precisely what has led to the church’s molestation-related problems, the Archbishop’s advice to victims was shocking to many.
As a Catholic, I am befuddled by the Archbishop’s stance in this matter given that Father Hod may have some victims in St Lucia. Here was the perfect opportunity to reach out to possible victims in Saint Lucia. To my mind, the Archbishop blew it again.
Traditionally the church has kept such matters a secret and has even been accused of cover-ups. It seems the local public can expect nothing new from church leaders, that the past will remain the present where sexual molestation by priests is concerned. Apologies such as that to Irish Catholics by Pope Benedict in March 2010 will amount to nothing without back-up action by such as Archbishop Rivas. The Pope’s words: “You have suffered grievously, and I am truly sorry. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated.”
He also criticized Ireland’s bishops for “grave errors of judgment and failures of leadership.”
In September 2010 Pope Benedict spoke out once again during his four-day trip to the United Kingdom, when he expressed “deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes.”
The Pontiff said he felt “shame and humiliation” because of the scandals, and called upon Catholics to express “concern for the victims and solidarity with your priests.”
Benedict acknowledged that the church was “not sufficiently vigilant, and not sufficiently quick and decisive” in coming to grips with such scandals.
We suggest Archbishop Rivas should take note and reconsider his decision regarding an interview with this newspaper!