Church Knew of Sex-Abuse Allegations Years Ago, Accuser Claims As 14 More Charges Laid against Priest

By Andrew Seymour
The Ottawa Citizen [Canada]
February 17, 2006

An alleged victim of a retired Pembroke-area priest who is now accused of sexually assaulting seven young males said the Catholic Church knew about allegations of sexually impropriety decades before criminal charges were laid.

"There are people in the church who knew," the man told Citizen yesterday after 14 new charges were laid against Monsignor Bernard Prince for alleged sexual assaults on six young males, including two from Ottawa, in the late 1960s to mid-1970s and the 1980s. Msgr. Prince already faced a single charge of buggery and indecent assault one one young male.

The alleged victim, who cannot be identified due to a court-ordered publication ban, said the church moved Msgr. Prince, who was released on bail yesterday, to a new post after he made the allegations. "We're not sure who moved him but he did get moved," the man said.

Rev. Peter Proulx, who handles sexual abuse complaints for the Pembroke diocese, said he was not aware of any allegations made against Msgr. Prince prior to the OPP investigation that was launched last May.

However, Father Proulx admitted he had no way of knowing whether any complaints were made before he accepted his current position three years ago.

"We want to see truth unfold in this whole thing," he said.

"We have a responsibility to alleged victims as well to be caring and compassionate and understanding," said Father Proulx, adding Pembroke Bishop Richard Smith would not be commenting on the criminal charges or whether the church had prior knowledge of sexual assault complaints.

The alleged victim said he came forward to the church alleging abuse over a five-year period starting when he was around 12 years old.

However, he never shared those allegations with police until last year when he learned another man had come forward with similar allegations against the now 71-year-old priest.

"(The Catholic church) is a very powerful organization. It can be a scary situation for anybody going through this," the man said.

"I'm not sure I was ready to become the first person to come forward," he said. "It takes a long time to realize you did nothing wrong, that you are not to blame."

The alleged victim said he was able to take advantage of counselling, which helped him cope with the abuse.

"I don't label myself a victim any more. I am a survivor," he said. "I did nothing wrong, that's the bottom line. I didn't abuse anyone's trust, I didn't abuse the power I had."

The new charges against Msgr. Prince -- including one count of buggery, six counts of indecent assault and seven counts of gross indecency -- were laid yesterday prior to his bail hearing.

Msgr. Prince returned to Canada from Italy on Tuesday night to face a charge of buggery and indecent assault for the alleged sexual assault of a 12-year-old boy in 1969 at a small cabin in his home town of Wilno, west of Ottawa. A warrant for his arrest had been issued in mid-October.

Wearing a dark blue jacket and black pants with his hands shackled in front of him, the grey-haired former Vatican official and friend of Pope John Paul II sat quietly in the prisoner's box during much of yesterday's brief bail hearing.

He was released on a $20,000 bond and several conditions, including to reside at a relative's house, not to have contact with any of his alleged victims, turn over his passport to the Killaloe OPP and not be in the presence of anyone under the age of 18 unless accompanied by an adult.

Provincial police said the six new alleged victims were between the ages of 12 and 17 when the alleged assaults occurred.

Of the seven alleged victims, five were allegedly assaulted at Msgr. Prince's Wilno cabin while two of the alleged assaults occurred at an Ottawa apartment.

The Citizen has learned there are also at least five more potential victims whose complaints are now being investigated by police -- three people who came forward since news of the charges against Msgr. Prince became public in early February and two other men police have yet to interview.

Msgr. Prince's lawyer, Chris Kelly, said neither he or his client were aware police planned to lay the additional charges today.

"Msgr. Prince returned to this country without having information about what he was up against which from my perspective bodes very well for his credibility," said Mr. Kelly.

"He travelled here knowing it wouldn't be a picnic when he got here," he said.

The former secretary general for the Pontifical Work for the Propagation of Faith at the Vatican, Msgr. Prince was ordained in 1963 at St. Mary's Church in Wilno. He worked at parishes in Arnprior and Pembroke in the 1960s before taking a posting at the Apostolic Nunciature in Ottawa. He later worked for the Canadian Conference of Bishops and taught at Saint Paul University before moving to Toronto as director of Canada's Pontifical Mission society. He left Canada for the Vatican in 1991.

Msgr. Prince is next scheduled to appear in Pembroke court on Feb. 28.


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