MONTREAL (QUEBEC, CANADA)
Archdiocese of Montreal
November 25, 2020
By Justice Pepita G. Capriolo
The author of this report was mandated by Archbishop Christian Lépine to investigate “who knew what when” in regard to Brian Boucher’s actions during his career within the Catholic Church and to formulate recommendations to the Archdiocese, with the view that such behaviours not be repeated.
To do so, the author searched for and analyzed in detail hundreds of documents and interviewed more than 60 witnesses. She received the assistance and support of Bishop Thomas Dowd, appointed by Archbishop Lépine as her liaison with the clergy, but she was not in any way directed or censored in her work. Indeed, the author had complete autonomous access to all documents, including those contained in the Secret Archives, which even Bishop Dowd could not consult. Furthermore, she was able to interview anyone whose testimony she judged useful.
The involvement of Brian Boucher in the Catholic Church covers a long period: from his time as a catechist in the mid-1980s to 2019, when he was convicted and sentenced on two counts of sexual assault of a minor. Throughout these years, his suitability as a seminarian and later as a priest was often questioned, but it was only in December of 2015 that a serious investigation began, leading to Boucher’s canonical and criminal trials. Brian Boucher is no longer a priest and is currently serving an eight-year sentence.
Until 2016, no one had come forward and claimed having been Boucher’s victim of sexual abuse while still a minor. No parent had ever brought such a charge against Boucher to the attention of his superiors. But this is no cause for premature exoneration of the Church authorities. Many people had complained about Boucher’s unacceptable behaviour over the years: he was rude, authoritarian, overly intense, intransigent, homophobic, racist, misogynist and verbally, and sometimes even physically, aggressive. These complaints were repeatedly reported to his superiors. Rumours about his untoward interest in young boys had been circulating since the 1980s and communicated to those in charge of the Grand Séminaire de Montréal as well as to the Archdiocese. These rumours later became more concrete: Boucher was observed having a very close and worrisome relationship with a young boy at the end of the 1990s. No concrete evidence of sex abuse was brought forth- but how often is this behaviour caught on camera? Despite the concerns raised over this relationship and brought to the attention of the authorities in ever-increasing detail, no investigation was undertaken at the time.
A contemporary unwanted sexual advance directed at an 18-year-old was dismissed and erased from the collective written memory of the Church. A later, heartbreaking abusive relationship with a 19-year-old student under Boucher’s tutelage when he was Chaplain of the Newman Centre became the tipping point … to send Boucher for psychological treatment!
The overly vague psychological evaluation of Boucher done by the Southdown Institute in 2003 had the disastrous effect of appearing to shield him from any suspicion of being a child molester, until Bishop Dowd began his investigation in December 2015, twelve years later. The reports containing the conclusions based on Southdown’s therapeutic approach also gave the impression that Boucher’s aggressive and inappropriate behaviour had been “fixed.”
Despite Southdown psychological reassurance, rumours persisted and another complaint about inappropriate behaviour with a minor was sent to the diocesan authorities and quickly dismissed in 2006. In 2011, a senior official of the Church wrote a lengthy, detailed summary of Boucher’s ongoing failings in order to stop his reappointment as pastor of a parish. The official left on extended sick leave and Boucher was reappointed.
Boucher was finally caught in his own lies: he claimed that, during his sabbatical studies in Washington, he had been the victim of sexual abuse by a much younger man, a fellow priest. Bishop Dowd investigated this claim and quickly realized, given the evidence he found, that Boucher had been the perpetrator and not the victim. Once a broader investigation was started, Bishop Dowd discovered the existence of at least two child victims.
Boucher’s deplorable story is told in detail over 150 pages of the report.
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