Ex-priest named in lawsuit claims relationship was consensual

Nigel Packwood, former dean of St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Brandon, Man., resigned as both dean and priest in August 2016. Photo: Taken from an issue of The Mustard Seed
By on October 26, 2017

A Manitoba ex-priest being sued for allegedly sexually exploiting a female parishioner is admitting that he had a sexual relationship with her, but claims it was consensual.

Last month, Nigel Packwood, former dean in the diocese of Brandon, was named in a lawsuit filed by a former parishioner. The parishioner, whom the Anglican Journal is not naming because of the nature of the allegations, claimed that Packwood “initiated and maintained” a sexual relationship with her after she began counselling sessions with him in 2001, when he was serving as a priest in an Anglican church in western Manitoba. The woman’s statement of claim alleges Packwood used his authority to “manipulate, control and sexually exploit” her, including forcing her to have sex with him in the sanctuary of a church and sexually assaulting her on the church pew.

The lawsuit also alleges the diocese failed to investigate and evaluate Packwood’s background and suitability as a priest.

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None of the allegations have been proven in a court of law.

In a statement of defence filed Tuesday, October 24, Packwood denies having assaulted her “sexually or otherwise.”

The statement adds that Packwood “admits that he had an affair with the plaintiff at the relevant times, but at all times the sexual activities were consensual.”

It adds, “At all material times the plaintiff was a willing adult participant to the sexual conduct between them, and in many instances was the initiator of such sexual conduct.”

Packwood also denies a number of allegations in the lawsuit on the grounds that he has no knowledge of them. These include a number of points outlining the diocese’s alleged response to accusations made against him, including the details of his resignation.

Packwood resigned in August 2016, after the woman approached William Cliff, bishop of Brandon, with her allegations. Packwood also relinquished his exercise of ministry.

Packwood’s lawyer declined a request for an interview, on the grounds that the matter is before the courts.

Cliff was not bishop of Brandon when the events are alleged to have taken place.

In a letter to parishioners dated October 3, Cliff says the diocese intends to file a statement of defence and has contacted its insurer.

Packwood became dean of St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Brandon in 2014. He also served as a member of Council of General Synod, to which he was elected in 2004, and in the Partners in Mission and Eco-justice Committee of General Synod.

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  • Tali Folkins

    Tali Folkins joined the Anglican Journal in 2015 as staff writer, and has served as editor since October 2021. He has worked as a staff reporter for Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His freelance writing credits include work for newspapers and magazines including The Globe and Mail and the former United Church Observer (now Broadview). He has a journalism degree from the University of King’s College and a master’s degree in Classics from Dalhousie University.

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