Priest Admitted He Engaged in Homosexual Acts, Says Larocque

By Trevor Pritchard

August 26, 2008

A retired priest and accused sexual abuser told his bishop he'd had trysts with other men, including parishioners, the Cornwall Public Inquiry heard Monday.

But the sexual relationships Rev. Charles MacDonald admitted to after a heated discussion between former bishop Eugene LaRocque and the city's police chief were all consensual, LaRocque testified yesterday.

"I cannot recall that at any time he had said that he assaulted, that he had forced, anyone," he said.

LaRocque, who ran the Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese from 1974 until 2002, returned to the stand as the inquiry resumed after a three-week summer hiatus.

The long-running tribunal is probing how institutions like the church reacted when it received allegations of historical sexual abuse.

In late 1992, David Silmser went to Cornwall police with allegations that MacDonald had sexually assaulted him when he was an altar boy at St. Columban's Church in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Cornwall Police Service would close its investigation in September 1993 after Silmser settled with the diocese for $32,000. The deal included an illegal clause - one LaRocque has maintained he was unaware of - that stopped Silmser from pursuing civil or criminal charges against MacDonald.

On Oct. 7, 1993, LaRocque received an angry visitor at his office: then-CPS chief Claude Shaver.

Shaver, LaRocque said, revealed that his officers had spoken to two other alleged victims.

One had given the CPS a statement naming MacDonald but was refusing to testify, while the other would reluctantly take the stand, LaRocque said.

"It's quite true that I was visibly shaken," LaRocque said. "That was the first time I'd ever heard there were more victims."

That night, at Shaver's request, the former bishop called MacDonald.

LaRocque testified that MacDonald admitted to having sexual relationships with other men "in the distant past." He told lead commission counsel Peter Engelmann that he didn't ask MacDonald for names, however.

"That wasn't important to you at the time, sir?" asked Engelmann.

LaRocque said he didn't think of it, but added he would act differently today.

Later that October, LaRocque removed MacDonald from his parish and sent him to the Southdown Institute, a Torontoarea rehabilitation centre for priests.

"He did admit that there was more than one. And that's what (convinced) me something had to be done," said LaRocque.

"When I decide, I act quickly."

MacDonald would spend six months at Southdown, during which time LaRocque received reports on his progress.

In March 1994, MacDonald's therapist wrote LaRocque to tell him that the former priest had admitted to having sex with men between 19 and 30 but showed no signs of being a pedophile.

LaRocque said yesterday he was "dumbfounded" to learn during an Ontario Provincial Police interrogation that MacDonald had never been tested for pedophilic tendencies while he was at Southdown.

"That was one of the reasons I sent him there," he said.

Staff at the centre later told LaRocque that the accepted test - showing a person erotic images and measuring their level of arousal - wasn't used at Southdown because it was inaccurate and "extremely intrusive."

The OPP charged MacDonald in 1996 with sexually abusing a number of young men.

Although he never returned to parish work, documents entered into evidence showed MacDonald stayed on the diocese's payroll until 1998, when LaRocque asked him to formally retire after turning 65.

The criminal charges were stayed in 2002 after a judge ruled MacDonald's right to a timely trial had been violated. MacDonald has always maintained his innocence.

The inquiry resumes this morning at 9 a. m.


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