ST.JOHN’S, N.L. – Closing arguments began Wednesday in a civil lawsuit led by former Mount Cashel residents who claim church officials ignored reports of horrific abuse at the orphanage in Newfoundland.
Lawyers for about 60 claimants are in provincial Supreme Court, and say the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John’s is liable for incidents dating back to the 1940s.
Lawyer Geoff Budden says church officials knew or ought to have known what was happening.
He took aim at defence arguments, including that attitudes toward physical punishment of children have changed over time.
“Some things are eternally regarded,” he told Judge Alphonsus Faour.
“The sexual abuse of children was always known to be inherently wrong and evil.”
Representative plaintiffs can’t be named under a court order, but have alleged sexual attacks and beatings by the Christian Brothers of Ireland who ran Mount Cashel.
One of those claimants sat in court Wednesday, hands clasped, listening intently to the proceedings.
Now in his 70s, he described in a previous interview continuous beatings at the once-iconic institution in St. John’s.
“They’d come to your bed at night,” he said of the Christian Brothers, a Roman Catholic order.
“They’d masturbate you and lie on top of you, rub you and kiss you and all of that. I used to try and say a prayer and, you know, it didn’t work.”
About 20 more men represented by other firms could be affected by a decision expected sometime next year.
The civil lawsuit seeks damages still to be outlined in court, arguing the church corporation was responsible for the actions of the Christian Brothers.
The Archdiocese of St. John’s says it sympathizes with those who suffered, but was never responsible for the orphanage or school.
Plaintiffs in the case are from an earlier era who came forward when Mount Cashel abuse emerged as a public scandal with criminal convictions and a public inquiry starting in 1989.
It held hearings over 156 days on how justice and social welfare officials for years downplayed or hushed up Mount Cashel complaints.
The orphanage was closed in 1990 and torn down two years later.
Closing arguments in the civil lawsuit are expected to wrap up this week after a 30-day trial.