New Brunswick

Anglican Church responds to woman's lawsuit over box-cutter assault by minister

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.

Anglican Diocese of Fredericton and Christ Church deny responsibility for Rev. William Morton's actions

Cynthia Mae Moore says she met William Morton in January 2008 through Christ Church Anglican Church in St. Stephen. (Google Street View)

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 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. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

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.