|Sex-Assault Warrant Issued for Former Vatican Official
49-Year-Old Man Says He Was Assaulted at Wilno Cabin in 1969
By Andrew Seymour
The Ottawa Citizen [Canada]
February 2, 2006
A prominent Pembroke area priest who finished his career in a senior post at the Vatican is now wanted by police following allegations he had sex with a 12-year-old boy more than 35 years ago.
An arrest warrant was issued for retired Monsignor Bernard Prince, 71, of the Pembroke diocese in mid-October after a 49-year-old man came forward to Killaloe OPP claiming he was sexually assaulted in 1969 while visiting a small cabin built by Msgr. Prince in Wilno, about 130 kilometres west of Ottawa.
Police charged Msgr. Prince with buggery and indecent assault male.
Both charges were laid under the 1969 Criminal Code. The buggery charge carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
Msgr. Prince, who is no longer at the Vatican, but still lives in Italy, has not been arrested and police have yet to launch any extradition proceedings.
The Citizen has also learned police are investigating the possibility there may be more victims and have begun conducting interviews with many of his former parishioners and others who may have had contact with him over his lengthy career in Eastern Ontario.
His career also included stops at parishes in Arnprior and Pembroke before he took a posting at the Apostolic Nunciature in Ottawa. He later worked at the Canadian Conference of Bishops in Ottawa and taught at Saint Paul University on Main Street before moving to Toronto as director of Canada's Pontifical Mission Society.
Since Canada has an extradition treaty with Italy, Msgr. Prince could be returned to Canada if police asked. However, asking for extradition now may prevent police from laying any additional charges if more victims are located.
Reached by phone at his home in Morlupo, north of Rome, Msgr. Prince claimed he had no knowledge of the charges against him.
"I'm not aware of these allegations. I don't know anything about that. Sorry," Msgr. Prince said yesterday before abruptly hanging up the telephone.
Yesterday, an official who deals with sexual assault complaints for the Pembroke diocese admitted he was unaware of any criminal charges against Msgr. Prince.
Rev. Peter Proulx said no one had ever complained to him about any sexual misconduct involving Msgr. Prince during the seven years he has dealt with legal complaints in the Pembroke diocese.
"I'm aware of (an investigation) going on, but I haven't spoken to anyone laying charges or who claims to be a victim," said Father Proulx, adding he was unaware whether any complaints were made to the diocese at the time of the alleged incident in 1969.
Ordained in 1963 at Wilno's St. Mary's Church, Msgr. Prince left for the Vatican in 1991 after being named secretary-general of the Pontifical Work for the Propagation of Faith, a program run by the Catholic Church to promote missionary awareness and provide financial help or subsidies to mission territories.
He held the position until 2004, when he retired, said longtime friend Father Mervin Coulas, who described Msgr. Prince as a "personal friend" of the late Pope John Paul II.
Like many longtime parishioners in Wilno, Father Coulas, priest at St. Lawrence O'Toole Catholic Church in Barry's Bay, was stunned to learn Msgr. Prince had been accused of sexual impropriety with a young boy.
"I don't believe it," said Father Coulas, who has known Msgr. Prince for more than 43 years. "He was a dedicated priest, dedicated to his work and dedicated to the priesthood as well."
Ordained the same year as Msgr. Prince, Father Coulas said Msgr. Prince arranged a visit with the Pope during a visit to the Vatican in 2003 to celebrate their 40th anniversary since entering the priesthood.
It was during a concelebrated mass with the Pope that the Papal Secretary invited Msgr. Prince to join the pope at the altar to conduct the canon of the mass, including the consecration.
"He was a personal friend of the pope," said Father Coulas, adding Msgr. Prince's Polish heritage helped him befriend Karol Wojtila, who would later become pope, in the 1960s while he was studying canon law in Rome. "He knew the pope in Poland when he was the archbishop of Krakow. He had meals with him in the Apostolic Palace," he said.
Father Coulas said Msgr. Prince frequently arranged tours of the Vatican, often including meetings with the pope, for residents of Wilno who travelled to Rome to visit.
He spoke as many as 12 languages and had travelled the globe extensively, inspecting many of the missions that the Catholic church maintained in developing countries and elsewhere.
"I don't know how many times he travelled to India," said Father Coulas, adding his trips included Africa and many Eastern European countries.
"He did a lot of good work there. It was through him that decisions were made to provide money to various projects," said Father Coulas.
According to Father Coulas, Msgr. Prince became a priest in 1963 after studying at both St. Augustine's Seminary in Toronto and the Grand Seminary in Montreal. In 1963, he was an assistant priest at St. John Chrysostom Church in Arnprior before being sent to Rome by the bishop to finish his studies in canon law. When he returned in 1967, he worked in the chancery office and became an assistant priest at Pembroke's Church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus and the French St-Jean-Baptiste parish.
At around the same time the sexual assault is alleged to have occurred, Msgr. Prince moved to Ottawa, where he accepted a non-diplomatic post as English Secretary at the Apostolic Nunciature, which represents the Holy See in Canada. After about four to five years there, he joined the Canadian Conference of Bishops as assistant English secretary, where he remained into the 1970s.
After joining a Catholic organization formed by another priest, Msgr. Prince returned to the Canadian Conference of Bishops as an assistant English secretary before the pope's 1984 visit to Ottawa.
He later would become the president of the Canadian Canon Law society between 1985 and 1987 while teaching at Saint Paul University, before becoming the director of the Pontifical Mission Society in Toronto.
He also taught briefly at Notre Dame University in Indiana, before being transferred to the secretary-general position at the Vatican.
Since his retirement, he has also worked as the Catholic chaplain on cruise ships in the Mediterranean, said Father Coulas.
The last time he was in Ottawa was in November 2004, when he returned home from Rome to renew his driver's licence, said Father Coulas.
Father Coulas said, despite leaving the Pembroke area to work in Ottawa before leaving for Rome, Msgr. Prince would frequently return home to Wilno to help out at church or visit his cottage.
"He did so much work in Wilno. He would come up on his weekends and do mass at St. Mary's. I'm sure he wasn't even paid for it," said Father Coulas. "He was good to people. Funerals, weddings, baptisms. He'd come up here to do these things," he said. "He wouldn't have been given those major appointments if he wasn't."
Growing up in Wilno, Msgr. Prince and his four siblings lived with their parents in what is now the Wilno Station Inn and Cafe along Highway 60, not far from the majestic St. Mary's Church, which sits atop a large hill overlooking the highway.
Msgr. Prince later built the small cottage where the sex assault is alleged to have occurred at the end of a poorly maintained lane near a sawmill, off Wilno Road North. He has since sold it.
Yesterday, Msgr. Prince's younger brother, Desmond Prince, said he had no idea his brother was wanted by Canadian authorities.
Reached at his Ottawa home, Mr. Prince, 70, said he wasn't interviewed by police and couldn't believe his brother could commit the act he's accused of.
Mr. Prince also expressed skepticism about the charges, likening them to the Project Truth investigation in Cornwall. Police laid 114 charges against 15 high-profile men in the 1990s under Project Truth, but the courts ultimately convicted just one man who had no connection to the alleged sex ring.
"Why is it coming out after 37 years?" asked Mr. Prince. "It reminds me of the stuff down in Cornwall. Nothing came of that," he said.
A public inquiry into Project Truth and the allegations of systemic sexual abuse is set to begin on Feb. 13.
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