Hearing Begins for Priest; Former North Bay Rector Charged with Sexual Abuse

North Bay Nugget
May 6, 2008

A preliminary hearing has started for a Roman Catholic priest charged with sexually assaulting several young boys over a decade at various parishes in Northern Ontario.

It is alleged the incidents involving Bernard Cloutier began in 1974 and continued until April 1983.

He has pleaded not guilty to the 22 charges he is facing.

He was a parish priest at Saint-Agnes Church in North Bay when the initial charges were laid.

A preliminary hearing is held to determine if there is sufficient evidence to put Cloutier on trial on the charges.

The hearing is expected to last all week.

Cloutier, 66, is being represented by North Bay lawyer Gregory Ellies, who has asked the court to ban the publication of evidence given at the hearing.

Some of the charges Cloutier is now facing were laid in June of last year. The others were laid in February.

As a result of those allegations, he was relieved of his duties.

He is said to be living with family in North Bay.

Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe, the spiritual head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie, said Cloutier, like other priests facing or convicted of charges of sexual misconduct in the diocese, is now only allowed to say mass privately.

Plouffe said Cloutier would be responsible for paying for his own defence lawyer.


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