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B.C. archdiocese adds another priest's name to allegedly sexually abusive clergy list

A B.C. court acquitted Fr. Placidus Sander in 1993, but he admitted to a single sexual encounter with “an older seminarian” and to kissing one student twice.
Father Placidus Sander's name has been added to a list of allegedly sexually abusive clergy by the B.C. archdiocese.

Vancouver's Roman Catholic Archdiocese has added another name to its reportedly sexually abusive priests list.

On June 30, the diocese released an update on its activities to combat priest sexual abuse in which it released Father Placidus Sander's name.

Sander, who was born in Oregon in 1927 and ordained in 1952, occupied several positions at Mission's Christ the King Seminary between 1954 and 1988. He died in 2021.

He was acquitted in a sexual assault case in 1993 but remains the subject of current accusations in civil suits brought against him and others.

The diocese's abuse report notes that the papal nuncio — or the pope's ambassador to Canada, received an anonymous letter in May of 1987 signed by "Former Seminarians." The anonymous note alleged that Fr. Placidus was known to have been involved in homosexual activities with high school seminarians and asked that he be removed from his role as seminary vice-rector.

"Fr. Placidus was removed from that role nine months after the first letter was received," the archdiocese said.

In 1993, the document notes that accusations were brought forward by three men who reported to law enforcement that Fr. Placidus had sexually abused them during their time as minor students at the seminary.

Documents wanted in civil lawsuit against priests, church

That 1987 anonymous letter was recently the subject of a court application to get the nuncio to release it and other documents

In that case, Mark O'Neill is seeking damages for sexual abuse he alleges he suffered as a teen during his time at a Mission Roman Catholic seminary from 1974 to 1978. He was aged 13 to 17 at the time.

The defendants listed in the suit are: Seminary of Christ the King; Westminster Abbey Ltd.; the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vancouver, a Corporation Sole; Emerick Lazar; Harold Vincent Sander a.k.a. Dom Placidus Sander (Fr. Placidus); Shawn Rohrbach and John Doe.

Two other men have since joined O'Neill's case against the defendants.

In a March 25 application to B.C. Supreme Court Master John Bilawich, O'Neill and his lawyer Sandra Kovacs sought an order that Rev. Ian Jurkovic, the Apostolic Papal Nuncio to Canada, hand over multiple records.

However, Bilawich said he had no evidence before him that he had the jurisdiction to order the nuncio to release records. He also noted the diplomatic immunity of the papal ambassador.

Kovacs said naming Fr. Placidus is a step in the right direction for the archdiocese.

"On behalf of my clients, their foremost concern is that their dignity and credibility (are) restored," she said. My clients want to see the seminary closed." 

Sander admitted having sexual encounter and kissing student

While the court acquitted Fr. Sander in the 1993 case, the archdiocese said he had admitted to a single sexual encounter with "an older seminarian" and to kissing one student twice.

"Upon learning of this admission, the Benedictines removed Fr. Placidus from classroom teaching but he continued to act as a spiritual advisor for major seminarians, lead the chant program and work in the kitchen," the archdiocese said.

Fr. Placidus retired to the infirmary at Mission's Westminster Abbey in 2017, where he lived until his death on Oct. 15, 2021.

A civil claim regarding the same accusations from the 1993 criminal case has recently been filed. 

The archdiocese said it has released the information as criminal proceedings have ended and the plaintiffs with civil claims have requested such publication.

"The archdiocese was previously advised, including by law enforcement representatives, not to publish information during the course of the legal proceedings," the archdiocese said.

In November 2019, the archdiocese completed a review of files of Catholic clergy sexual abuse and uncovered 36 cases, most involving minors. Names of Roman Catholic priests believed to have been involved in sexual abuse of minors are being turned over to non-Catholic investigators.

Three cases involved priests then currently in the ministry, said the report, which made 13 recommendations.

The report said the diocese was not aware at the time of any priests not being charged or convicted but suspected of having abused children or adults currently ministering in other diocese.

None of the O'Neill case allegations has been proven in court.

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