The Sean Adams/Father Kevin Maloney connection

John MacDonald testimony  regarding

The Sean Adams/Father Kevin Maloney connection

and timelines of events

The sparks began to fly from certain quarters when John MacDonald’s testimony touched on the involvement of his childhood friend and lawyer Sean Adams with Father Kevin Maloney.

Father Maloney was the first person John turned to with his allegations of sexual abuse against Father Charles MacDonald.  

Father Kevin Maloney is also one of a group of priests who launched a lawsuit against Dick Nadeau, James Bateman, the Wanderer and others.

Sean Adams was a childhood friend of John’s and, at the time of the events outlined below, was John’s employer. John turned to Adams when he felt he needed a lawyer. Adams did not tell John that Father Maloney was his client.

During cross-examination by Dallas Lee the issue of Sean Adams was raised.  Lee asked John if a certain letter was the first indicator he had that “clearly let’s you know that Sean Adams was in a conflict position and this is when you realized what’s happened?

John replied: “Correct.”

Within minutes David Sherfiff Scott (the diocese) leapt to protest the “gravity of the implication”:

“I don’t know Mr. Adams, I’ve never met him, but just before we rise and take a break, before the media goes off somewhere, there is sworn testimony that you will hear of in cross-examination that Mr. Adams advised of the conflict in the very first meeting, and I’m just reacting to the fact this individual is not represented. I don’t know him and I don’t want the media to be –– I’m just very concerned about the sort of gravity of the implications here for this individual “

However Mr. Adams, according to transcripts entered to date, did not advise that he was representing Father Maloney.  In John’s words, Adams told John that he couldn’t represent him because he, Adams, “was in the middle of it.”  Under the circumstances that could have meant anything.  It did not tell John that his friend and employer was representing Maloney, nor that it was Adams who had advised Maloney to call police to get John to stop calling.

Without doubt there are other documents floating around which may fill in a few gaps here.  But for now, this is what we have.

Note the chronology as you read.  It’s rather intriguing, particularly when it comes to the 21 August date which is erroneously indicated as the date police told John to stop calling Maloney.

And note that John kept meticulous notes of dates as events unfolded.  A good idea.

So, for the time being, here is the story of Father Kevin Maloney, Sean Adams and John MacDonald….


John MacDonald and his wife Lynn had been living in British Columbia.  Throughout the years Lynn was anxious to return to Cornwall.  John was reluctant.  At some point John agreed.  From then until their return to Cornwall it was John who was anxious to return.

According to John the memory of his sexual abuse at the hands of Father Charles MacDonald “never left my mind.”

When John returned to Cornwall the Cornwall scandal had started to blow.  There were media reports of the sexual abuse allegations against Father Charles MacDonald and coverage of the role played by Constable Perry Dunlop in bringing the $32,000 pay-off with its illegal gag order to light.

John’s recollection is of a specific article relating to Father Charles MacDonald launching legal action against David Silmser (then referenced in all media accounts as “D.S.”).  That triggered John.

11 August 1995 

On 11 August 1995 John tried to start to come terms with the abuse which had haunted him for years, and did something he had been trying to for nine of those years. He wrote a letter to try to reach out for help.

John sat down, and in his meticulous print, appealed to Father Kevin Maloney who was at that time a priest at St. Columban’s church in Cornwall, the church at which Father Charles MacDonald previously served.

“Something is telling me that it is time to finally sit down and write this letter,” he wrote.  “I too was an altar boy at the time that abuses were taking place . . . . . .All the memories are returning, the retreat weekends in St. Andrews at the old nun’s residence.”

That was probably a Friday.

John spent the weekend pondering whether to proceed or not.  As he explained on the stand: “There’s two ways you can go, right? Step back from it or move ahead. And there was only one way to go if you want to get better and that’s to move ahead.”

At the time John says he was “going out of his mind.” He couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t eat.  The memories were driving him insane.

He was going to move ahead.

14 August 1995

On Monday, probably after work, John photocopied the letter at the post office.  He inadvertently left the front page of the letter in the photocopier.

After work the letter to Father Maloney was hand-delivered to the secretary at the Church.

15 August 1995

Father Kevin Maloney replied to John’s letter.

Father Kevin Maloney contacted Cornwall Police Service to report the allegations.

17 August 1995

John received Father Maloney’s letter of the 15th August 1995.  Maloney wrote:

“I received your letter yesterday, the Diocese’s policy (see attached Document)requires that I forward your complaint to the police so that they  may investigate. Since you spoke of a healing process, I hope that you will cooperate with the authorities”.

And here I must interject: Can you believe it? This is a Roman Catholic priest responding to man who reached to the Church for help! And the priest directed him to police!!! No invitation to come and talk.  No offer of spiritual direction.  No expression of sympathy.  No. Father Maloney washed his hands. Not so much as a God bless.  No offer of prayers.  Healing, it seems in the mind of this Roman Catholic priest, will come through the legal process and cooperation with authorities!!!

How terribly pathetic!

Anyway, after receiving the letter John called Dave Silmser’s mother in an attempt to contact Dave.  Dave had formerly been a friend of John.  John had not seen or had contact with Dave since his return to Cornwall. They get together a few days later. They did not discuss their allegations.  To this day they have not discussed them.

19 August 1995

Around 19 August 1995 John realized he was missing the first page of his letter to Father Maloney.  He returned to the post office, discovered that the page had been found and apparently that it had been given or sent to Father Maloney.

John tried to contact Father Maloney to get the page back.  He left a message on Maloney’s answering machine asking for a call back.

This is THE phone call.  That was John’s one and only call to Father Maloney. He left a message on the priest’s answering machine asking for a call back.  He simply wanted to get the first page of his letter back.  Police notes of 19 August 1995

“On August 19th, 1995, at approximately 14:30 hours, later attended 36 -4th Street West, the residence of Father Kevin Maloney. Father Maloney, in the presence of his lawyer, Sean Adams, advised writer that he has received two phone calls, through his answering service, from a David Silmser as well as one from a John MacDonald. Due to an investigation being done by our Department, Father Maloney, on the advice of his lawyer, wished to have these two advised to stop calling until the investigation is complete. Writer attempted to contact both suspects but with negative results. Return to writer for follow up.”

Note – “on the advice of his lawyer.”

Sean Adams advised Maloney to get police to put a stop to the calls. This after one call by John to Father Maloney seeking a call back.)

John knew none of this.

21 August 1995 

John’s notes of 21 August 1995: 

John receives a call from a Dave Bough with the Cornwall Police Service. John is told that police have the front page of his letter which was retrieved from the photocopier and apparently turned over to Father Maloney who in turn turned it over to police.

This is John’s first contact with police. They had been advised of John’s allegations on 15 August 1995.

Bough indicates that he would like to talk with John at some time.  John notes there is “no pressure.”

John is not advised to “stop calling.”

Police notes of 21 August 1995:

“10:21 to John MacDonald. He was expecting my call. He wants to pursue this through the proper channels (healing), but wants to discuss this with lawyer (Sean Adams) first.”

If the officer writing the report knew that police had been at Father Kevin Maloney’s residence 19 August 1995 and that Sean Adams was present and was in fact Father Maloney’s lawyer, John was not advised.

(Sean Adams was one of three lawyers involved in the $32,000 diocese/Father Charles MacDonald pay-off of David Silmser.  Adams was retained by Silmser to read through and explain the agreement to Silmser before it was signed.  The agreement contained an illegal gag order.  Adams later claimed he read the agreement and explained it to his client but somehow failed to see the illegal gag order! One of the lawyers was charged with obstruction of jusitce, pled guilty and received an absolute discharge)

John’s notes of 21 August 1995:

“Met with Sean Adams, his office, around noon. Shared letter with him. He advised me to get a lawyer and my three options to deal with these criminal charges, civil suit or deal with Diocese.”

John testified elsewhere that Adams told John that he, Adams, was, in John’s words “wrapped up in the middle of it.” This statement apparently came after Adams disappeared from the room for a spell of about five minutes. [David Sheriff-Scott apparently sees this as Adam’s declaration  of a conflict]

By way of further background here, Sean and John “grew up together” and played sports together.  In fact at the time of the letter incident John was actually employed by Sean Adams and helping Adams build a house. He saw Adams regularly and considered him a friend.

John turned to Adams because “the Police are now involved and to me, police and lawyers go hand in hand. So I just got talking to Sean about the situation.”

Adams did not advise John that he was – for whatever reason – representing the diocese/Father Kevin Maloney. He did not tell John that he advised Father Maloney to get police to tell John to stop calling Maloney.  He did not tell John that he, Adams, was at Father Kevin Maloney’s home on 19 August 1995 when the police were called.

Police notes of 21 August 1995:

“On August 21st, 1995, writer contacted both suspects regarding this incident.”

[note 24 August 1995 below – John’s notes indicate he received the call on 24 August 1995 NOT 21 August. This error in dates was later confirmed in an April 1996 letter to John from Constable Burnie of Cornwall Police Service]

“This incident” is reference the phone calls to Father Maloney: one message left by John; two from Dave Silmser.

Note that police refer to Dave Silmser and John MacDonald as suspects!! Not alleged victims.  They are “suspects”!

23 August 1995

Police notes of 23 August 2006

“Spoke with Inspector Tim Smith, OPP Kingston, about our recent case involving an allegation against Father Charlie by way of letter written by John MacDonald…”

Dave Bough (Cornwall police) called John and told him that Dave Silmser had been phoning Father Maloney. Whether this is reference to Dave’s previous two phone calls or not is unclear.

John indicated in his notes that he had several calls from Bough.  He found Bough easy-going, “ a nice guy,” not putting pressure on John, wanting to take his time and ready to deal with the allegations at the proper time.

24 August 1995 

John’s notes of 8 pm 24 August 1995:

“Emma Wilson called asking me about an August 19th phone call to Father Maloney; told me not to call again because of an ongoing investigation. She took my birth date and address”.

John had no idea what investigation Wilson was talking about. He felt as though he was maybe under investigation and didn’t know why.

According to John’s testimony

I didn’t do anything wrong. I couldn’t understand why I was being ordered, is the way I felt, not to call Father Maloney, when there was nothing sinister in what I was doing. I was only asking to be returned what was rightfully mine.

At another point in his testimony John describes the events

I get a call from a Cornwall Police officer asking me not to call again, that she had went to a complainant’s residence which, number one, tells me somebody complained, and that she and the priest, along with his lawyer, was standing there as Constable Wilson was there and took a complaint against me.  And she calls me and orders me, and that’s the way it came across, was an order not to call Father Maloney.

John still has no idea that his friend and employer is representing Maloney.

[Note that this of the 24th August is the one erroneously logged in police notes as the 21st August.]

11 September 1995

John’s notes of 11 September 1995:

 “Dave Bough called, said OPP Kingston will handle any complaint. They are very familiar with Charlie MacDonald.”

12 September 1995

John attends the Cornwall police station with a written statement of his allegations against Father Charles MacDonald.  Carson Chisholm accompanied him. No one at the station would agree to accept John’s statement. John held it out. No one would take it. He was told a police investigation was already underway and that the Kingston OPP would be in touch with him.

John’s notes of 12 September 1995

 “Dave Bough called, said lay charges next week.”

This must have been after the trip to the police station?

28 September 1995

John’s notes of 28 September 1995

“Tim Smith called to receive statements.”

(Tim Smith was with the Kingston OPP).

It seems that on the same day John was interviewed by the Ontario Provincial Police.  Tim Smith, Mike Fagan, and John’s lawyer Bryce Geoffey were present.

During the taped interview the OPP are apparently trying to determine who all might have seen John’s letter to Father Kevin Maloney.  The line of questioning and exchange makes clear that at that time John still had not the faintest idea that Sean Adams was representing the diocese/Father Kevin Maloney and was the lawyer who had been with Father Kevin Maloney the day police were called (19 August 1995).

26 April 1996

John first learned through a letter from Constable J. R. Burnie of the Cornwall Police Service that Sean Adams had been representing Father Kevin Maloney and was in a conflict situation when John showed him a copy of the letter to Father Maloney. In a CBC radio interview John said that he felt “betrayed” when he found out.

The letter signed by Constable J. R. Burnie of the Cornwall Police Service had been written to John to clarify some concerns John had raised during a phone conversation with Burnie. As a result of that discussion, among points covered in the letter, Burnie acknowledges the police call telling John to stop calling Father Maloney had been placed 24 August 1995, not 21 August 1995:

“From our conversation, it was determined the date on the report was incorrect, meaning the Occurrence Report. I contacted Constable Wilson and confirmed that the date of August 21 was indeed incorrect and that the proper date, according to your notes, was August 24, 1995.”

My Questions

(1) What the heck was going on?

(2) Was Sean Adams in a conflict of interest situation?