A man who says he was sexually assaulted by a priest as a child is suing the Bridgewater ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Lawyers Robert Carter and Geoff Budden filed notice of action in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Monday.
They refer to their client as John Doe in the attached statement of claim. Doe now lives in Alberta, but lived in Bridgewater in the early 1980s.
Doe attended the Bridgewater ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), commonly known as the Mormon church.
John Nauss was a member of the LDS priesthood in Bridgewater, and “of the custodial and maintenance team.”
“The Plaintiff states that from in or about the year 1980 until in or about the year 1981 he was sexually assaulted many times by Nauss at the Bridgewater Ward Meetinghouse owned and operated by the Defendants including, but not limited to, the janitorial closet as well as crawl spaces under the building,” Carter and Budden wrote in the statement of claim.
They claim the church failed “to properly screen and vet Nauss.” It ought to have known that Doe “could or may have been exposed to the risk, apprehension or reality of sexual, mental and emotional abuse and other injury and sustain resulting damage.”
None of the allegations contained in the statement of claim has been tested in court. The church has not filed a notice of defence. Nauss himself is not named as a defendant.
Lawsuit alleges priest was transferred
The statement of claim suggests Nauss was transferred within the church. In or around 1993, Nauss “was engaged in the role of a Temple Ordinance Worker at the Toronto Ontario Temple in Brampton, Ontario,” the lawyers wrote.
“Further, the Defendants knew or ought to have known of Nauss’s endangerment of children, and in particular the Plaintiff, and both inadequately reported it, but also restored power to and re-assigned Nauss to a position of trust at the Toronto Ontario Temple, and thus recklessly in the face of knowledge of Nauss’s abuses, or negligently through inadequate investigation, continued to shelter and empower Nauss, contributing to a culture of tolerance of the abuse of children,” Carter and Budden wrote.
“During all times material to the Plaintiffs claim, the Defendants knew or ought to have known of widespread instances of the sexual abuse of children within the LDS Church, which ought to have corresponded with appropriate and necessary oversight and action on the part of the Defendants to both protect vulnerable church and properly address predatorial behaviour by its employees, servants, agents and associates. The plaintiff submits this was not done, and further, should it be determined it was contemplated or addressed, these attempts were inadequate and therefore negligent.”
Nauss’s actions caused “acute and irreparable psychological harm” to Doe, the lawyers wrote. That included: the “impairment of his opportunity to experience a normal childhood;” “humiliation and betrayal due to Nauss having violated him physically, sexually and emotionally;” suicidal ideation and attempts; and more.
They’re seeking special, general, aggravated, punitive, and exemplary damages, “to be ascertained,” as well as costs.
Priest charged last year
In June 2022, Bridgewater police announced 19 charges against John Nathaniel Nauss. Those are nine counts of gross indecency and 10 counts of indecently assaulting a victim. In a news release, they said they’d received a report from a victim of historical sexual assault.
“Police began a months-long investigation and subsequently identified five more victims who reported being sexually assaulted as young children by one individual, with the offences spanning a time frame from 1978 to 1981,” police said.
“The investigation revealed that most of the incidents occurred at a place of faith gatherings and a male, who was at the time an employee of the organization where the offences occurred, has been charged.”
Nauss, 68, now lives in Toronto. He was arrested there and released on a promise to appear in court in Bridgewater in August 2022.
Nauss is due in Bridgewater provincial court for election and/or plea on May 17.