Monsignor Robert Borne

Ottawa Sun - April 11, 2012

A Pembroke priest received a nine-month conditional sentence for indecently assaulting a 16-year-old male more than three decades ago.

Monsignor Robert Borne will spend the first five months of the sentence, imposed by Madame Justice Julianne Parfett in Pembroke Superior Court Tuesday afternoon, under house arrest. He must wear an electronic monitoring device to ensure he doesn't leave his residence. He is permitted to attend church on Sunday mornings and he can go out for three hours on Saturday mornings. Monsignor's name will now join those of other sex offenders listed on a national registry. A sample of his DNA will also be placed on a data bank alongside that of other known criminals.

Msgr. Borne kept his head down while the judge read her decision. At the conclusion of the proceedings, he embraced his sister who was on hand for the entire trial along with their mother.

In November, the Roman Catholic priest was found guilty of one count of indecent assault at the conclusion of a four-day trial. He was found not guilty on the same charge in relation to a second alleged victim.

Before delivering the sentence Justice Parfett heard two victim impact statements, one read by the now 48-year-old victim himself and the other written by his mother and read by Assistant Crown attorney John Pepper.

Justice Parfett also reviewed 59 letters of support of the priest written by various individuals, along with a presentence report completed by the local probation office and a report completed by Dr. Anthony Eccles, who assesses people who have committed sexual assaults. All indications are Msgr. Borne is a low risk to re-offend.

The incident between the priest and the teenage boy occurred in 1979 when the two took a trip to Toronto with an overnight stay at the rectory in Griffith so Msgr. Borne performed mass at the church there while the regular clergy was away.

While the two males shared a bed, the teen woke up to find the priest kissing him then attempting to perform oral sex. During the trial, the court heard the next night the teen told the priest he was not interested in a relationship and the Msgr. Borne accepted this and there were no other sexual encounters between the two. The victim did turn to the priest for counselling at different times over the years, however.

While defence attorney Robert Carew painted a picture of his client as an upstanding citizen who helped many people deal with difficulties in their own lives, Mr. Pepper called it aggravating that the priest abused a position of trust.

Mr. Pepper said while it is clear Msgr. Borne was a gifted and even charismatic priest, the crown attorney believes this charisma, respect and popularity made it easier for him to commit the offence because he was trusted, particularly by the victim's family who thought nothing of allowing their son to take this trip to Toronto with Msgr. Borne.

Mr. Carew argued it is not the classic breach of trust situation because it was not a priest/altar boy relationship or teacher/student, and the victim sought out the priest at the rectory. There was no evidence of grooming on the part of the priest.

Justice Parfett indicated, however, that although there was no formal relationship of trust between the parties, there was an element of trust because of his position as a member of the clergy.

She added his reputation was a double-edged sword because it was so good that the family didn't have a problem allowing their son to spend time alone with him. She called this crime one of opportunity.

"They placed their trust and that trust was betrayed in the most heinous manner," the judge said.

She added the emotional trauma of this kind of experience can continue for years.

Among the mitigating factors, that it was a single incident and that he does not have a criminal record.

Eganville lawyer Stewart Lavigueur also testified as a character witness on behalf of Msgr. Borne, who he first met in 1994 following the fire at St. James Catholic Church and has since become close friends with the Monsignor and his whole family.

He told the court that the priest has a good reputation among those living in Eganville, and not just of Catholics but everyone. He believes this is an example of how he is able to bring people together.

"My wife said he was one of the best priests we ever had," Mr. Lavigueur said. "He would go the extra mile."

The victim, who was supported in the courtroom by his parents and wife, told the court he was taught to respect the Catholic church and its priests because they are God's representatives and father of the church, so he was happy about being befriended by Msgr. Borne as a teenager. Because of his position of authority he and his family trusted the priest, so when Msgr. Borne betrayed that trust it changed his life forever, he told the court.

As someone who grew up with the Catholic church playing an important role in her life, the mother of the victim wrote that she was pleased and flattered when Msgr. Borne took an interest in her son so the family was happy to welcome him into their home on a regular basis.

Once she became aware of what had happened between the priest and her son, she had difficulty attending mass and she suffered from many sleepless nights.

When she learned Msgr. Borne was being investigated for indiscretions against others, it was like a weight was lifted off of her shoulders, she wrote.

She now wishes he had never darkened their doorstep and she wishes God will have mercy on Msgr. Borne's soul.

At the conclusion of the nine-month sentence Msgr. Borne will be on probation for two years, during which time he is not to associate with the victim or his family and he must not be in the company of children under 18 unless supervised. He is also prohibited from consuming alcohol. Another condition of his probation is attending and actively participating in any assessment, treatment and counselling that is deemed necessary.