[WARNING: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault, and could negatively affect someone who has experienced similar trauma.]
A third man has now filed a civil suit alleging sexual abuse at Mission’s minor seminary school while he was a teenager. Andrew Ehman, like the two other accusers, attended the high school seminary for aspiring priests in the 1970s.
In his civil claim, filed in BC Supreme Court on May 24, Ehman says Shawn Rohrbach was an adult student at the college seminary in 1975 when he allegedly plied Ehman with alcohol and committed sexual battery against him. Ehman was 16 at the time.
Harry Sanders (known as Father Placidus), whose estate is named in all three suits, “detected and discreetly observed” the abuse taking place in the boys’ shower room and did nothing, which allowed the abuse to continue into the boys’ dormitory, the suit alleges.
Ehman claims that, after a delay, Sander eventually reported the incident to the school’s rector, Anthony Kalberer, who had separate private meetings with Ehman and Rohrbach.
No further action was taken, and Rohrbach was not removed or disciplined, which emboldened “his predatory behaviours against other minor seminarians,” the suit alleges.
“Rohrbach was a predator skilled at grooming, preying upon, and exploiting underage boys to submit to sexual activity after plying them with alcohol.”
The first of the three former students to file a civil suit, Mark O’Neill, also claims that Rohrbach – who served as an overnight field-trip supervisor – plied him with alcohol before sexually abusing him during a hiking trip in 1978.
He also alleges an attempted rape by Rohrbach off school grounds in 1979.
All three plaintiffs name Seminary of Christ the King, Westminster Abbey (the monks run the attached high school seminary), and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vancouver as institutional defendants.
They claim systematic negligence in failing to protect the students, and complicity in an entrenched clerical culture that promotes the “psychosexual immaturity of priests and seminarians, perpetuating sexually deviant behavior.”
All suites claim numerous convicted or credibly accused pedophiles are former students of the seminary.
The three cases are represented by the same lawyer, who has applied to have the evidence heard during the same trial on the basis of relevance. It is scheduled for Sept. 12, 2022.
All plaintiffs claim damages from a range of injuries sustained from the alleged abuse, which include PTSD, chronic anger, anxiety, dissociation, sleep disturbance, and depression, to name a few.
There is some variation in the named defendants in each suit. Ehman’s claim adds the estate of Kalberer (deceased in 2008) as a defendant for failing to intervene.
O’Neill and the other unnamed plaintiff testified at the 1997 criminal trial of Sander, which resulted in his acquittal on all six charges.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.