The abuse of power in the church and finding justice

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Image: TVO and Border City Pictures. Used with permission.

Instances of abuse of children at the hands of Catholic priests contribute to a narrative which never seems to end. Every case is a tragic story and the pain that the victims experience continues for the rest of their lives, even when the perpetrators are charged and convicted. 

The film Prey, released at Hot Docs in Toronto in 2019, focuses on one story and its victims. The film follows London, Ontario lawyer Rob Talach (a.k.a. "The Priest Hunter") and focuses on two survivors, Patrick McMahon and Rod MacLeod. MacLeod, who was sexually abused at the age of 13 half a century ago, is determined to be the one plaintiff who does not settle in the case of William Hodgson Marshall. Marshall was a Basilian priest and teacher in Sudbury, Toronto and Windsor, who sexually abused at least 17 minors over the course of 38 years. 

Though cameras were not allowed into the actual court proceedings, Prey recreates the mood of the trial, profiling the various people connected to it. Marshall was convicted in 2011 after a court challenge which was emotionally devastating for his victims. He was sentenced to two years in jail and died in 2014. Rod MacLeod sued the Basilian Fathers and was awarded a record $2.57 million in 2018. The award was upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2019.

"Emotionally, this was a very difficult film to work through," says the director and co-producer Matt Gallagher. "The sheer scope of the abuse uncovered in these stories is chilling enough on its own. But the power of the secret held by these survivors, and the doubt and even blame they encountered when they began to talk, that's an extra ordeal that's hard to imagine."

Cornelia Principe, co-producer of the film, talks to David Peck about justice, survivor guilt, truth, the abuse of power, and why external oversight will be required for meaningful reform within the structure of the church.

About today's guest:

Cornelia Principe is an Emmy-nominated, award-winning producer with over 20 years of experience. She recently produced 14 & Muslim for CBC and is currently in post-production on a feature documentary with director Nisha Pahuja called Send Us Your Brother. Other credits include producing the feature How To Prepare For Prison; producing, directing and writing The Motherload, for CBC's Doc Zone which has been awarded prizes at both the Chicago International Film/TV Festival and at the Worldfest Houston Festival.

She documentary The World Before Her with Storyline Entertainment has won 20 awards and distinctions including best documentary at Tribeca, Hot Docs and Michael Moore's festival in Traverse City. It was voted a Canada top ten by the Toronto International Film Festival 2012, was nominated for best theatrical documentary at the Canadian Screen Awards, and was part of the Sundance Film Forward Program. Recently it was nominated for an Emmy.

The film is now streaming on TVO.

Image: TVO and Border City Pictures. Used with permission.

F2F Music: David Peck and Face2Face. 

For more information about David Peck's podcasting, writing and public speaking please visit his site here. With thanks to Josh Snethlage and Mixed Media Sound.

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