When did the Church know? Questions about allegations against Brian Boucher
Father Brian Boucher’s trial lasted one week, with shocking testimony from two alleged victims, detailing horrific sexual abuse.
Also coming out of the trial are questions about when the church first learned of the allegations against Boucher, and why it took so long to arrest him.
A verdict is not expected until January. Meanwhile, those questions remain.
WATCH: The trial for a priest accused of sexual assault got underway Monday at the Montreal courthouse. As Global’s Felicia Parrillo reports, Brian Boucher was arrested and charged in march 2017 and is facing several charges of sexual assault and sexual touching.
Observers say the Catholic Church rarely handles sex abuse allegations well.
“The Roman Catholic Church has for a long time tried to put a lid on the cover of sex abuse by its priests,” said Carlo Tarini, a spokesman for the Quebec Association of Victims of Priests.
Boucher started working at the Our Lady of the Annunciation Church in TMR in 2005. That’s the year one alleged victim testified the abuse started. The victim was 12 at the time.
In his testimony, Boucher admitted he left the parish in 2014, before the end of his mandate. He left to undertake ecclesiastical studies in Washington.
Some parishioners told Global News they were surprised, saying the departure felt “abrupt.”
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Carlo Tarini has represented multiple Catholic Church sexual assault victims.
He says the church has historically shipped troubled priests off when allegations of sexual abuse started festering.
“It’s not a first case where a priest is mysteriously removed from his work,” he said. “Unfortunately, over the years, we have seen the Roman Catholic Church act as the largest travel agency for pedophiles.”
Boucher testified the Auxiliary Bishop of Montreal, Father Thomas Dowd, approached him in December 2015.
Dowd informed Boucher an allegation had been made against him. The allegation was made internally within the church.
“December 22, 2015, Bishop Dowd told me of a complaint,” Boucher testified. “I had my faculties removed. I could not celebrate mass publicly.”
The church stripped Boucher of any of his religious responsibilities in 2015, almost a year and a half before he was actually charged. It never told parishioners why.
In other testimony, court heard that in summer 2016, Bishop Dowd contacted one of the alleged victims.
He informed him he’d heard rumours of sexual abuse, and urged the alleged victim to approach police.
That same summer, in June 2016, Montreal’s Catholic Church announced it was changing its policy, forbidding priests from being alone with children.
The evidence heard in court raises questions. How and when did the Bishop first hear of those allegations? And how long had the church known?
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Global News has asked the Archdiocese of Montreal for a timeline of events showing when it first learned about the allegations.
The church says it conducted its own internal investigation of Boucher, worked with police, and won’t comment further until after the trial is over.
The church also told Global News: “Boucher has been removed from all ministry. Although he is still a cleric, he does not and cannot function publicly as a priest.”
The Church also said in a statement:
“Regarding internal investigations: Once diocesan authorities received official testimony alleging misconduct by Fr. Boucher, every effort was made to shed light on these allegations. Diocesan authorities removed him from all Church ministry, launched an internal investigation, guided the alleged victims through the process, and collaborated with the police by sharing the results of its investigation.”
Despite being stripped of duties, Boucher wore his priest collar almost every day to his trial.
And he is still living off the church.
His current residence is at a convent in the east end Montreal, living in a small cottage.
One of the nuns told Global News everyone has a right to a roof over his head, regardless of accusations.
The verdict in Boucher’s first trial is due in early January. A second trial starts at the end of that month. Parishioners told Global News they’re hoping for answers when the trials are over.
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