Catholic priest admits others in diocese confided in him about abuse of boys in Cornwall
08 September 2001 (A1)
BY AARON SANDS
CORNWALL — A prominent Roman Catholic priest charged with sex crimes under Project Truth confessed in court yesterday that he has long been aware of a group of pedophiles in the Cornwall community.
Under cross-examination while testifying in his own defence, Father Paul Lapierre, 72, repeatedly denied taking part in a sex ring, but told court that priests in the tightly knit diocese, along with others, confided in him over the years about the sexual abuse of boys in Eastern Ontario.
He said he never felt compelled to report the crimes to police. Two weeks ago, the Ontario Provincial Police concluded the four-year Project Truth investigation by stating no pedophile ring ever existed in Cornwall.
It was the fourth investigation into allegations of wide-spread sexual abuse of boys in Cornwall over the past five decades.
The first three produced no charges.
Project Truth resulted in 115 charges against 15 men, but police said there was no evidence to substantiate allegations from at least 69 complainants that the alleged offenders were in any way connected.
The cries of “coverup” persist from MPP Garry Guzzo, a former judge, and former Corn-wall police Const. Perry Dunlop, the decorated officer who blew the whistle on the case and lost his career for it. –
Mr. Guzzo, MPP for Ottawa West-Nepean, has threatened to name the “kingpins” of the alleged ring — none of whom were charged — in the Legislature. After the testimony yesterday, OPP Det. Insp. Pat Hall, the lead investigator on Project Truth, said he must wait until the trial is over to comment.
Mr. Guzzo could not be reached for comment last night.
Father Lapierre was charged in May 1999 with three counts of indecent assault and two counts of gross indecency in connection with alleged sexual assaults on a boy between 1964 and 1968.
He has pleaded not guilty.
The victim, now a middle-aged lawyer who lives in Quebec, testified this week in the third Project Truth case to go to trial.
When he was 12 years old, the man said, he was passed like a used toy from one sexual predator to Father Lapierre, who continued the abuse on numerous occasions over more than four years.
On the witness stand yesterday, Father Lapierre vehemently denied the allegations against him.
But in cross-examination, he became tangled in a series of conflicting statements regarding his relationship with the victim. When assistant Crown attorney Alain Godin pressed on, the priest became clearly flustered. He began responding in two languages, at times starting a sentence in French and finishing it in English.
At one point, he burst out laughing.
“Is there anything funny?” Mr. Godin said.
Father Lapierre suddenly turned to speaking of “the others”. He said he learned of sexual abuse committed against his accuser and other boys through conversations with fellow priests.
Defence lawyer Don Johnson objected when Mr. Godin asked Father Lapierre to expand, saying the Crown was trying to “sneak through the back door” to introduce allegations against a group of people.
“There are no back doors here,” Superior Court Justice Paul Lalonde responded and ordered Father Lapierre to respond.
Father Lapierre said his colleague and close friend, Father Donald Scott, had approached him about the sexual abuse of boys by priests in the diocese.
“I was told Father Hollis Lapierre (another priest) kept pictures of naked boys with himself,” Father Lapierre said.
He said Father Scott was the executor of Father Hollis Lapierre’s will. When Father Hollis Lapierre died in 1975, “he had been asked to destroy those pictures” and other evidence he kept near his bed, Father Lapierre told the court.
Court heard Father Scott died of AIDS several years ago.
The victim, who cannot be identified, said he was simultaneously sexually assaulted on one occasion by Fathers Lapierre and Scott.
Father Lapierre denied that allegation, as he did all the others, with a simple “No sir” or “Never”
Father Lapierre said he had also learned of sexual improprieties involving Dr. Arthur Peachey.
Dr. Peachey was a family doctor who used to act as Cornwall’s coroner and the team doctor for the Cornwall Royals junior hockey team. Dr. Peachey was also charged with sexual assault and gross indecency under Project Truth. He died in December 1999, four days before his trial date was to be set.
Father Lapierre did not comment on other conversations he said he had about the sexual abuse, saying the information was exchanged during religious confessions and was therefore privileged.
Asked if he ever reported the sexual abuse he learned of, Father Lapierre said he discussed it with the bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cornwall-Alexandria. “It’s privileged … you’re dealing with moral things, ethical things,” Father Lapierre said.
“Do you not feel if you know of some abuse, you should report it?” Mr. Godin asked.
“No, sir,” Father Lapierre said with the wide smile that accompanied many of his responses.
“You didn’t report it because you were involved in the abuse.” Mr. Godin said.
“No, sir! No, sir!” Father Lapierre said.
Apparently pleased with Father Lapierre’s testimony under an intense cross-examination, the victim, his wife and a friend embraced and shed tears outside the courtroom during a break in the proceedings.
Mr. Godin called Father Lapierre “one of the rising stars of the Catholic church” in the 1960s — around the time when the offences are alleged to have occurred.
“My modesty and humility would advise me not to agree with you,” Father Lapierre said, “but if you like.”
In 1963, the bishop had named Father Lapierre director of a Catholic re-treat house in Alexandria. Several years later, court heard, he became host of a Sunday morning religious program on CBC.
On the stand yesterday, Father Lapierre admitted to withholding in-formation about his relationship with the victim in four voluntary statements he made to Project Truth investigators. In one statement, Mr. Lapierre was asked if he had anything to add regarding the alleged incidents of sexual abuse.
Father Lapierre stated “wrong dates.” He repeated that statement in court yesterday.
Mr. Godin asked how there could be “wrong dates” for offences the priest claims never occurred.
Later on, Father Lapierre said the victim visited his apartment at Surrey Gardens in Montreal in 1993. He said the man, whom he had maintained a “friendship” with over the years, appeared “mad.”
He said the man told him: “Some-body is going to pay for this,” in reference to the sexual abuse he allegedly suffered.
“I felt threatened and blackmailed,” Father Lapierre told the court.
“You didn’t do anything?” Mr. Godin replied. “There’s no reason to feel threatened if there was no sexual abuse.”
“I was worried about the others …,” Father Lapierre said, “because of the others, and there was more than one, sir. I didn’t want to be blackmailed either … I knew about his reputation in the past. The fathers were always talking about him. I had received confidences from the others. I had some-thing to worry about (the alleged victim) from all the knowledge I received from the others … At different times priests came and spoke to me about problems.”
Father Lapierre then said the alleged victim was known among the clergy as “promiscuous … It was his way of always hinting, outgoing.”
The defence elected not to re-cross-examine Father Lapierre.
The trial continues next week.