“The Anglican Diocese of Fredericton and Christ Church in St. Stephen deny any responsibility for the actions of Rev. William Morton, who is accused in a lawsuit of assaulting a woman with a box cutter and threatening to “skin her alive,” and have filed a cross-claim against the minister.
If Morton committed the actions as alleged by Cynthia Mae Moore, they were “his independent acts for which he is solely responsible both in fact and in law,” the Diocesan Synod of Fredericton and the Corporation of the Anglican Parish of St. Stephen argue in a statement of defence and cross-claim filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench on March 21.
They contend their relationship with Morton was an “ecclesiastical” one and not an employment or agency relationship, and if Morton was an employee or agent, his alleged actions “were contrary to his ministerial duties or responsibilities.”
As such, they argue they are not vicariously liable for his alleged actions or the damages Moore is seeking in her lawsuit against them and Morton.
They further claim Moore’s lawsuit should be dismissed and they refer to the provincial Limitation of Actions Act, which addresses, among other things, the time period for filing claims.
Moore discontinued her claim against the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, the legal entity that operates the Anglican Church of Canada, on March 7, court records show.
Morton, who now lives in Fredericton, did not file a statement of defence.
He was convicted in 2016 of two counts of assault with a weapon and received a 15-month conditional sentence — a jail term that can be served in the community, provided the offender abides by court-imposed conditions.
Moore, 60, claims she had a nearly four-year extramarital affair with Morton, who was her minister, and that on Nov. 24, 2015, while at his St. Stephen home, he threatened to “skin her alive” and scraped her breasts with a box cutter.
Hours later, Morton showed up at her home and tried to kill her, she alleges in her amended statement of claim, filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench in Saint John on Dec. 1, 2017.
“He succeeded in cutting her breasts and abdomen with a box cutter,” the document states.
‘Knife to her throat’
On Dec. 8, 2015, Morton attacked her again and “attempted to kill her with a knife to her throat,” according to the statement of claim.
Moore’s claim collectively refers to the defendants as the defendant church and said it “acted negligently as it was or ought to have been aware of … Morton’s alcohol abuse and it took no steps to oversee or supervise … Morton in his role as a clergyman.”
She accuses the defendant church of breaching its duty of care to prevent her abuse and claims as a result, “she suffered and continues to suffer severe damages,” including post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts.
Moore, who now lives in New Maryland, has been unable to work and her faith and trust in the Anglican Church “have been damaged,” according to the statement of claim.
‘Took all reasonable steps’
The diocese and church deny any knowledge of the alleged affair or assaults.
They contend they “did not know, nor ought to have known, that Morton presented a danger to the plaintiff (which is not admitted) … and at all times took all reasonable steps regarding training and supervision” of Morton.
They argue they acted in a “reasonable and prudent manner in carrying out their responsibilities” and did not cause or contribute to any alleged injury, loss or damages suffered by Moore.
Instead, they claim that any alleged injury or condition suffered by Moore pre-existed “the incident or was caused by events or conditions unrelated and unconnected to the alleged incidents said to have occurred when the defendant Morton was a minister of the defendant church.”
In their cross-claim, the defendants claim indemnity and/or contribution from Morton for any damages or losses they are required to pay Moore.
They also request Morton cover their costs and seek “further and other relief” as the court deems fit.”
Woman Sues Anglican Church After Minister Assaulted Her With Box Cutter
Cynthia Mae Moore seeks damages over 2 attacks by Rev. William Morton in St. Stephen in 2015
“A New Brunswick woman who claims her former minister tried twice to kill her is suing him, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton and the Anglican Parish of St. Stephen.
Cynthia Mae Moore, 60, claims she was in a nearly four-year extramarital affair with Rev. William Morton, her minister at Christ Church in St. Stephen, when he threatened to skin her alive and scraped her breasts with a box cutter.
The incident happened at Morton’s St. Stephen home on Nov. 24, 2015, according to the notice of action and statement of claim, filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench in Saint John.
Moore says she left Morton’s house and a couple of hours later, he showed up at her home and cut her breasts and abdomen with the box cutter.
As a result of the Defendants’ wrongdoing, [Moore] suffered psychological injury which is continuing and includes post traumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation.– Cynthia Mae Moore statement of claim
On Dec. 8 that year, Morton attacked her again and tried to kill her with a knife to her throat, according to the court document.
Morton, who now lives in Fredericton, was convicted in 2016 of two counts of assault with a weapon and received a 15-month conditional sentence — a jail term that can be served in the community, provided the offender abides by court-imposed conditions.
“As a result of the Defendants’ wrongdoing, [Moore] suffered psychological injury which is continuing and includes post traumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation,” the statement of claim states.
Moore, who now lives in New Maryland, has been unable to work and her “faith and trust” in the Anglican Church “have been damaged,” the document says.
Moore alleges the Anglican Church of Canada, the Diocese of Fredericton, and the St. Stephen Parish, Christ Church, collectively “the Defendant Church,” are “vicariously liable” for Morton’s actions.
The Defendant Church “acted negligently as it was or ought to have been aware of … Morton’s alcohol abuse and it took no steps to oversee or supervise … Morton in his role as a clergyman, knowing that in such a role it was usual and normal for parishioners to seek counselling and place trust and reliance in the clergy,” the document states.
The Defendant Church breached its duty of care to prevent Moore’s abuse and as a result, “she suffered and continues to suffer severe damages,” she alleges.
Moore says she trusted Morton as her spiritual leader and counsellor and he abused that trust.
No statements of defence have been filed by any of the defendants yet, and the allegations have not been proven in court.
The Anglican Church of Canada’s communications director, Meghan Kilty, did not respond to a request for comment.
The Anglican Diocese of Fredericton declined to comment.
“The diocese will refrain from comment as this matter is before the courts,” communications officer Giselle McKnight said in an email to CBC News.
Counselled her on marriage
Moore met Morton in January 2008 when he “resumed” work as the rector at Christ Church, which she had attended since 2001 and where she worked part time in the office.
A couple of months later, Morton started counselling her about her marriage problems.
They began a “romantic relationship” in February 2012, after Morton, who was also married, told her numerous times that he loved her, according to the document.
The relationship continued until December 2015, when Morton “intentionally caused her physical harm amounting to battery,” it states.
Moore claims Morton breached his fiduciary duty when he “took advantage of her vulnerability and commenced a sexual affair, which ended in horrific assault on her person.”
She says she had great respect for the clergy and the church, and was an active member of Christ Church, serving in various volunteer positions, including greeter, reader and head server.
Since the attack, Moore says she hasn’t been able to worship there, has “lost the sense of community” and “struggles with feelings of betrayal by the church.”
She is seeking general damages from Morton for battery, breach of trust and fiduciary duty.
From the defendant church, she is seeking general damages for negligence and vicarious liability for Morton’s actions.
She is also seeking special damages for loss of past and future income, for past and future costs of care, as well as legal costs and interest.
Arrested after 911 call
Morton was arrested and charged on Dec. 8, 2015, after St. Stephen RCMP responded to a 911 call about a disturbance involving a man and woman, shortly before 1 a.m.
The complainant told police the man had left the scene and he was located a short time later, the RCMP had said in a news release at the time.
“The woman received minor injuries in the incident, but did not require medical treatment,” Cpl. Terry Pomeory had said in a statement.
Morton, who was 58 at the time, was ordered to undergo a 30-day psychiatric assessment and later pleaded not guilty in Saint John provincial court to two counts of assault with a weapon.
On Aug. 23, 2016, Morton changed his pleas to guilty of both offences, which occurred on Nov. 24, 2015, and Dec. 8, 2015.
He was sentenced on Oct. 25, 2016, to two 15-month conditional sentences, to be served concurrently.
The conditions of Morton’s sentence included that he live under house arrest for the first five months, attend a rehabilitation program, continue counselling, abstain from alcohol, keep the peace and be of good behaviour, and report to a sentence supervisor.
Morton was also ordered to pay a $100 victim fine surcharge for each offence.”