SCARRED FOR LIFE
Lawsuit alleges sexual abuse by priest committed against Calgary high school student in early 1980s
When Brian was a teenager, he attended the funeral of a man he says sexually abused him for months.
He sat in St. Mary’s Cathedral in January 1983, for the special funeral mass presided over by the bishop: a solemn occasion befitting the untimely death of a much-loved priest.
“It was huge. Everyone in full regalia and I was just one little person in this whole church,” recalls Brian. “They saw him as a saint.” On Wednesday, a lawsuit was filed in Calgary court against a religious order of the Catholic church, alleging decades-old sexual abuse at the hands of a Calgary priest and teacher at Bishop Grandin High School that left a former Calgary resident permanently scarred.
None of the allegations have been proven in court. Postmedia has agreed not to publish the plaintiff’s full name.
The suit is one of the first of its kind to be filed in Alberta since the province eliminated the two-year time limitation for victims of sexual abuse to sue in civil court, bringing the province in line with most Canadian jurisdictions, including Ontario and B.C.
The 53-year-old plaintiff is a former head altar boy, Catholic youth group member and Bishop Grandin student who alleges he was repeatedly abused by Father Frederick Cahill for several months in 1981.
Cahill was a priest and English teacher at Bishop Grandin from 1969 until his death in 1983. He also directed the ‘Search’ program for youth in the Calgary diocese and was chaplain to the Columbus Boys’ Camp at Waterton Lakes National Park.
For Brian, it all began with a postcard that arrived from Cahill in the summer after Grade 10: “He said how much he appreciated my friendship and was hoping to get to know me better.”
The teen shared that he had an interest in joining the priesthood and Cahill responded enthusiastically.
“That was like the cat’s meow, you know what I mean? Because it’s like, ‘Oh wow, a priest wants to spend time with me and pay attention to me.’”
They saw each other with increasing frequency at school, in weekly masses with which Brian assisted as part of his youth group. The teen was thrilled when Cahill offered to teach him to drive when his own dad was too busy with work.
They would meet on Saturdays and drive together outside of Calgary, usually returning to Brian’s house by 6 p.m. “I remember he would put his hand on my thigh while I was driving. I tried not to think of it as a big deal, I felt he was a little lonely.”
Brian says if anybody had any reservations about Cahill taking particular interest in him, they didn’t share them.
The night everything changed, Cahill had even come to Brian’s door in Midnapore to meet his parents before the pair departed to go camping near Waterton Lakes National Park.
Brian alleges Cahill took him to an empty summer camp operated by the Knights of Columbus because “he wanted to show me something.”
He recalls being asked to lie down on a blue vinyl-covered mattress inside one of the buildings at the camp.
“He laid on top of me. He told me he had the same experience when he was younger from a priest with red hair who loved him and respected him and got him into the priesthood,” says Brian. “I froze. The next thing I knew he undid my pants.”
The statement of claim alleges a pattern of repeated abuse that increased in frequency and intensity after that — often while camping, sometimes in Cahill’s station wagon, Brian says.
fr. frEdErick cahill Bishop Grandin High School