There were initially five men who filed complaints and had charges laid against Monsignor Robert Borne. In total there were 19 charges – all related to allegations of sex abuse when they were teenagers. By the time the case went to trial the number of complainants had been whittled to two, and the number of charges to four.
The two remaining complainants testified at trial. There are publication bans on the names of both complainants.
The first complainant, whom I’ll refer to as C1, is an adult male who alleges abuse in 1981 at age 18 and/or 19 by Borne.
The second complainant, whom I’ll refer to as C2, alleges abuse in 1979 at age 16.
C1: I wasn’t in court for C1’s testimony on Monday but did catch his Tuesday testimony. My understanding from media coverage and testimony of Day Two is that C1 testified about three incidents which he says transpired at Borne’s quarters in the St. Columbkille Cathedral Rectory (Bishop’s Palace in Pembroke,Ontario). C1 was in his final year of high school at the time (Ontario still had Grade 13)
C1 testified that on one the first of those occasions he had been drinking. Borne hugged him, tried to kiss him, and grabbed his bottom.
According to C1, on another occasion he had had too much to drink, had gone to bed in a bedroom in the palace (across the hall from Borne’s bedroom) and awoke to find Borne on top of him performing oral sex upon him.
The next morning, according to C1, he and Borne had breakfast with Bishop Windle
The third and final incident transpired when C1 was again spending the night at the Palace. I believe testimony was that he was extremely intoxicated and was spending the night at the palace. According to C1, during the night Borne entered the room in which he was sleeping. When C1 realized he Borne was in the room he pretended to be sick, and began to shake and act as though he was convulsing. According to C1, Borne, who was thinking of calling an ambulance, called in a Father O’Brien for assistance. (There were several clergy living at the bishop’s palace at the time, specifically the then Bishop of Pembroke, Joseph Raymond Windle and Fathers O’Brien, Dobec and Borne)
An ambulance was not called. There are no further allegations from C1.
The Borne investigation began when, during the OPP investigation into sex abuse allegations against Monsignor Bernard Prince, an anonymous tipster advised that a boy, C2, may have been molested by Monsignor Robert Borne.
Borne had had a very close relationship with C2’s brother. C2 actually came to know Borne through Borne’s contact his older brother. C2 saw the relationship of Borne and his brother as a friendship. He would often see and talk to Borne when the priest stopped by the house to his or pick up his brother.
C2’s brother was one of the original complainants who had charges laid against Borne. Those charges were whittled away before trial. However, as a 15 year old boy C2 had not an inkling that there was a sexual component to the friendship between his brother and Borne.
Over time C2 started dropping by the rectory to see Borne, sometimes with other friends, and sometimes alone. According to C2, while at the rectory they would watch TV, drink and socialize. Borne also allowed him to drive his car in preparation for his drivers test.
The evidence is that C2 made two trips to Griffith, Ontario with Borne. Borne was going to Griffith to fill in for the parish priest: he was to be there to say Sunday Mass at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Griffith and the Saturday evening Mass at St. Joseph, the mission parish in Esmonde. The trips were therefore overnighters.
On the first Griffith trip Borne was accompanied by C2 and another young lad, age 17. The second trip, which transpired the following weekend, was just Borne and C2. The pair travelled to Griffiths, spent the night, then travelled on to Toronto to sight see, and, on the way home spent another night in the Peterborough area.
C2 has no recollection of the first weekend at Griffiths. He does however recall portions of the second.
C2 testified that in 1977 Borne took him on a trip to Toronto via Griffith. They stopped in Griffiths where Borne fulfilled his obligations at both Esmonde and Griffith. They spent the night at the rectory.
C2 testified that he had been drinking during the evening. He recalls nothing aside the fact that during the night he became aware that Borne French-kissed him and then performed oral sex on him. He has no recall of anything else before or after: he thinks he blocked it out.
Both C1 and C2 talked of drinking and/or getting a little tipsy or drunk in Borne’s company. According to their testimony alcohol was available. The testimony would infer that Borne himself rarely drank.
Now, to Monsignor Borne’s testimony. ….
Borne, who was attired in a dark suit and grey shirt which was open at the neck, testified that he was born 07 May 1948 and raised in Pembroke, Ontario. He attended Holy Name Elementary School and St. Columban’s Boy’s School. (St. Columban’s was run by the Christian Brothers. It closed around 1964. I have also learned that there was an all boys Christian Brothers school in Renfrew, Bishop Ryan. It closed around 1963)
Borne attended St. Augustine’s Seminary and the University of Toronto. He was ordained in 1974.
From 1979-1981 Borne lived in the rectory of St. Columbkille’s Cathedral in Pembroke. (The cathedral rectory is frequently called the Bishop’s Palace.)
Borne was one of four priests who served as part-time chaplains to Catholic High School. The school was located beside the Cathedral. The priests said Masses, heard confessions and provided counselling to students at Catholic High. The students often went to see the priests at the Cathedral for counselling. In 1981 C1 was a Grade 13 student at Catholic High.
I will cover the salient points of Monsignor Borne’s testimony, both his examination in chief (his lawyer, Robert Carew, posing the questions) and his cross examination (the Crown, John Pepper, posing the questions)
(1) Borne denies giving the boys alcohol. He admits to having kept alcohol in his residence.
(2) Both C1 and C2 testified that Borne allowed them to borrow his car. Borne acknowledged that he did lend the car to both C1 and C2 as well as other students. He did so, he said, because when he was growing up there were priests who were very generous in loaning their cars. He also said that at the times he loaned it out he didn’t need use of the car.
(3) According to Borne, he invited C2 and the 17-year-old boy to join him for the weekend when he was covering for a priest in Griffith and Esmonde because, he said, ‘it was not easy being at the rectory with no one to talk to, ‘so, he invited them to go along and they agreed.
Borne testified in his examination in chief that it was the month of March that he took C2 to Griffith and Toronto.
Under cross examination he was asked if he was certain it was March. Borne said he thought so.
The Crown quickly proved it could not have been March and must have been April. The trip was made just after C2 got his driver’s licence, and he drove the car from Pembroke to Griffith and for other portions of the trip.
C2’s 16th birthday was April 1979.
Borne swallowed hard. He agreed it must have been April. I truly don’t know what difference this makes to anything aside the fact Borne was proven wrong. Unless it all boils down to temperatures….
In his exam in chief Borne testified that, to cut heating costs, the upper floor of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church was blocked off, both when he was there with both boys, and a week later when he was there with C2. That meant of course that the upstairs bedrooms were presumably blocked off and sleeping accommodations were limited to a bedroom on the main floor and a pull out couch in the living room.
According to Borne, when he was there with the two boys on the first trip the boys slept on the pull-out and Borne slept in the bedroom.
On the second trip Borne claims he told C2 to sleep on the pull out, but, according to Borne, C2 said the pullout was uncomfortable and he wanted to share Borne’s bed.
Under cross examination Borne was sure that even though it was April vs March as he had originally testified, the upstairs was still boarded up. But then, apparently to prove the point, Borne said that he recalls taking a shower upstairs and recalling how very cold it was! So, the bathroom was accessible. Why not the bedrooms?
C2 testified that he had been drinking in the evening. Borne testified the boy “seemed perfectly sober.”
In his examination in chief, Borne testified, as mentioned above, that C2 didn’t want to sleep on the couch because it was too uncomfortable, and that he wanted to sleep in Borne’s bed with Borne. The pair, according to Borne, got into bed, both clad in undershirts and undershorts.
This whole scenario became a bit of a problem for Borne under cross examination.
In relation to his testimony regarding C1, Borne had said he wears pyjamas.
The Crown asked why, when it was so cold, did he go to bed in his undies, and why not his in pyjamas? And would it not be logical , asked the Crown, when he was travelling with and having overnighters with a 16-year-old boy, that Borne take his pyjamas?
Borne, who seemed to have such excellent recall when talking about what he did and did not do virtually every minute of the trip, doesn’t recall if he took his PJs.
So, back to the pair – the priest and the 16-year-old boy – getting into bed in their undies.
C2, said Borne, in his examination in chief, began to talk about an evening where he, C2, had gotten “wasted,” and something about a sexual encounter with a girl. They talked about that. Then, again according to Borne, as they were lying in bed, side by side in their undies, they talked about sex.
And then, according to Borne, the conversation progressed to a point where C2 told him he didn’t mind sex with men or women.
After that, said Borne, there was “mutual groping.”
Borne denied the French kiss, and he denied fellatio. But, there was this groping.
Under cross-examination the Crown hypothesised that Borne had no reason to believe that C2 knew of the “romantic relationship” between Borne and C2’s brother.
Borne took exception to the word “romantic.”“I have difficulty” he said, “ with the word romantic.”
Borne had trouble too when asked is he would agree that the relationship was sexual.
Finally, Borne was asked if there were aspects of a sexual relationship to the relationship. Yes. A flushed-faced Borne agreed to that.
Borne also agreed in his cross examination in chief that, while C2’s parents agreed their son could make the trip with Borne, they would have been unaware of the relationship he had with their other son, a relationship which had recently come to an end.
Under cross examination Borne agreed that the sofa bed probably would not have been uncomfortable if it was not pulled out to make a bed. And he agreed that the boy probably could have slept on the couch. He denied that he was eager to share the bed with the boy
Asked about the conversation he allegedly had with C2 as they lay side by side in bed clad in undies, Borne reiterated that they talked about sex. And he again said that C2 told him that he was open to sex with men or women. When the Crown questioned the age of the men the boy might be interested in Borne said he gathered that the boy had had sex with older men before, and, I do believe he followed that up with wondering if the boy might be ‘free.’
However, despite the admission to ‘groping’ Borne denied that he wanted to have sex with the boy and said he wasn’t interested in sex with him.
When the Crown said, “but you groped him” Borne’s prompt response was ‘yes, and he groped me’!
Asked where he groped the boy, Borne said in the genital region.
Asked how long the groping carried on, he said about 5 minutes or less.
Borne denied that the purpose of the groping was to get sexual pleasure
Asked repeatedly what was the purpose of the groping Borne finally replied: “Sometimes we act impulsively and without strategizing.”
Asked if he knew the boy was 16, Borne replied “I guess I knew.”
When the Crown said there was no reason C2 would have know Borne was gay, Borne replied “I’m not gay, but no, he would have no reason to know.”
Borne testified that he had no problem sharing the bed with the 16-year-old boy.
Borne agreed with the Crown that he put himself in a position of temptation by going to bed with the boy.
He agreed that he put himself in a situation which almost any member of the Church would criticize.
He also agreed he put himself into a position of betraying some serious promises he had made.
As for the morality of the situation, it was only when the Crown introduced the concept of morality that Borne mentioned the word! Once the word morality was on the table Borne testified that he thought he stopped the groping because he became aware of the morality of the situation.
As I said before, Borne denies performing fellatio on thee boy. He testified in fact that after this five minutes of ‘groping’ he rolled over and went to sleep.
Asked if he was not excited or titillated, Borne’s reply was: “I don’t think I was.”
He denied having an erection. He doesn’t know if the C2 did or didn’t.
The Crown questioned if Borne and C2 were lying face to face in the bed. Borne could not recall.
When the Crown posited that Borne had no information that the boy had previous sexual involvement with another male, Borne said that the fact that the boy said he was open to it led him to believe he must have had some such sexual experience.
Aside his allegations, C2 recalls nothing. He can not counter any of Borne’s assertions as to what he, C2, said or did that night.
(3) Borne had not many, if any, a kind word to say about C1.
In his examination in chief Borne testified that C1 used to show up at the rectory uninvited, often drunk. Sometimes, according to Borne, C1 would call late at night and Borne would pick him up and bring him back to the rectory. On several occasions Borne decided it would be better for C1 to spend the night at the palace.
Borne claimed that he allowed C2 into the palace and to stay over and so on because he knew that the boy had difficulties at home. “I was trying to be that image of Church which reaches out to everyone” he explained
Borne was adamant in his examination in chief that he did not seek C1 out and tolerated all of this because he didn’t want to worsen whatever concept C1 had of the Church.
Indeed, said Borne, he felt intimidated by C1. He never knew, he testified, how short C1’s fuse was.
Asked in his examination in chief if he had any physically attracted to C1 Borne replied “Absolutely none!” He then elaborated, and seemingly by way of explanation as to why he would not be attracted to the teen, that C1 was belligerent and hostile. He then reiterated that he was not attracted to C1 at all.
On another occasion he denied any sexual interaction with C1 because “I had no interest in him.”
Later again in his testimony Borne denied any interest in C1 because “of my fear of him” and because of his “surliness.”
Borne complained that if there was alcohol in the rectory C1 helped himself to it and that “I don’t recall any occasion I drank with him.”
According to Borne, C1 prided himself on being an intellectual and he was always questioning everything about the Church. I got the impression that Borne was annoyed that C1 asked questions?
Also, according to Borne, C1 had concluded that Borne was homosexual and “always went at me about that” to the point that Borne – according to Borne – had had enough and would sarcastically say: “Oh yeah yeah “
Later Borne testified that as an aside he should mention that his close friends tell him they often don’t know if he’s joking or serious, and so he’d tell C1 “Oh yeah, yeah, I’m a homosexual and I go up to Deep River.” The message here I presume was that he was joking when he said that and not to be taken seriously.
Under cross examination Borne denied the Crown’s suggestion that C1’s family were devout Polish Roman Catholics. For one thing said Borne, the mother was not Polish, and, for another they sometimes missed Mass:. “They were a little less than devout” said Borne.
When the Crown made reference to C1 as a teenage boy, Borne was quick to say: “He was 19.” He then agreed with the Crown that that’s a teenager.
When the Crown suggested that Borne allowed C1 to drink in the rectory, Borne replied ‘You didn’t have to offer anything, he’d take it….It wasn’t as though I gave to him and I don’t think I ever offered it.’
Asked if he ever talked to C1 about taking alcohol without permission Borne said he did, but it didn’t get him too far.
From the testimony of C1 and C2 we cold conclude that Borne often invited the boys upstairs to his quarters in the rectory.
The Crown managed to elicit that there would be no alcohol available on the ground floor living room quarters of the rectory, and that Borne did have alcohol in his room upstairs.
Asked by the Crown if he spoke to C1’s parents about the boy’s drinking, Borne said no.
When the Crown said there was nothing to stop him from doing so, Borne went on a ramble about C1’s father and mother and then wrapped it up with the claim that he didn’t want C1 to think he was tattling!
In his examination in chief Borne had complained about C1’s surly behaviour and drinking and so on. The Crown suggested that Borne didn’t even have to let C1 into the rectory. Borne agreed, but said “that’s not what we’re trained to do.”
Asked then if he was on duty at these times, Borne said yes.
Asked if he ‘on duty’ when he was groping C2 the answer was “no.”
During his examination in chief Borne said that at some point he realized “I was being bullied and harassed by [C1]”!
Under cross examination Borne agreed that he said he was being bullied and harassed by this teenage boy. He also agreed that he was living in a sort of community – that there were others in the rectory. Still, he claimed he felt “intimidated” by the teen!
C1 testified that one morning after staying the night he, Borne and Bishop Windle had breakfast together.
Asked under cross examination if he and C1 had breakfast with Bishop Windle after one morning after C1 stayed the night, Borne said it was possible.
(4) Since the charges were laid Borne claims he has no status in the Diocese. He testified that he rents a house from the diocese and receives a small stipend. He said his family have been very supportive. He visits with family, and takes his mother shopping once/week.
He believes that if we were to ask anyone who knows him if he committed these assaults they would say “absolutely not.” Borne believes those who know him know that he is not a forceful man.
That’s it for now. It was not impressive. Not a word from this Roman Catholic priest about teaching those boys right from wrong. Not a word about helping those whom he claimed had drinking problems.
Disgusting. He is unfit to be a priest. Regardless the verdict, he is unfit to be a priest.
The verdict will be rendered tomorrow morning: 10 am, Pembroke court house. I have learned from past cases not to presume a verdict. I know what I think it should be. I know what I hope it will be.
We shall see.
Pray that justice is done, both in and out of the Church. Keep all those who filed complaints against Monsignor Robert Borne in your prayers. Tomorrow will be a tense day for all.
Enough for now,