22 November 2018 6:31 pm
A Montreal Catholic priest accused of sexual assault took the stand in his own defence and testified for several hours on Thursday afternoon, denying allegations made against him.
Father Brian Boucher was arrested in March 2017 and is facing several charges of sexual assault and sexual touching. The trial, which is expected to last one week, started last Monday.
During his testimony, Boucher went through his history of becoming a priest and what eventually led him to Our Lady of the Annunciation Church in Town of Mount Royal.
He then spoke at length about his relationship with one of his accusers who was heavily involved in the church.
The young man, whose identity is protected under a publication ban, was a pre-teen at the time of the alleged assaults from 2008 to 2011. He testified earlier this week, alleging Boucher sexually abused him for years — including sexual touching and anal penetration.
During his testimony, Boucher said he became close to the man’s family, often being invited for dinners.
Boucher also admitted he became close to the man, who is now in his 20s, but he said their relationship deteriorated after the man allegedly admitted to what Boucher described as “immoral acts” with a girl in the church itself.
Following that, Boucher said he was disappointed and felt he couldn’t trust the man again.
Boucher said the family encouraged him to take vacations with the man to Washington, Mexico and to Charlevoix to work on their relationship.
The priest said he was shocked when the man eventually accused him of sexual assault and he denies all allegations.
Boucher’s cross-examination will begin Friday morning.
— With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise
Wearing his Roman collar and glasses, Brian Boucher adjusted his blazer’s front buttons, stepped into the witness box and rested his right hand on the Bible.
“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” the court clerk asked.
“I do,” he answered.
“Brian Boucher,” he said, quickly adding: “Father Brian Boucher.”
With that, Boucher, 56, began to testify in his defence at the Montreal courthouse Thursday. The Catholic priest is on trial for charges alleging he repeatedly sexually assaulted and abused a minor while he served as parish priest at Our Lady of the Annunciation Church in Town of Mount Royal.
In his testimony, Boucher said he was “shocked” when he first learned of the allegations and repeatedly denied them.
“Absolutely not,” he answered when asked if the alleged acts ever took place.
“No, it didn’t happen,” he said at another point. “I definitely didn’t participate in any such activities.”
The victim, whose identity is covered by a publication ban, alleges Boucher began abusing him when he was 12 years old. It started by Boucher questioning him about sexuality.
He alleges the abuse continued for three years, between 2008 and 2011, and took place in the church rectory. It was frequent, included oral sex, and escalated to anal penetration.
On the stand, Boucher described how he was friends with the alleged victim’s family. The boy was an altar boy and later volunteered and worked for the parish.
Boucher said the only conversation he ever had with the alleged victim related to anything sexual came after an “incident” with the boy’s girlfriend at the church, while he was working.
“The absolute betrayal on (his) part. I had trusted him 110 per cent, and … right there, in the church,” Boucher said. “He engaged in these immoral acts with this girl.”
From that point on, Boucher said, their relationship became “strained.” They later went on three trips together, including one to Mexico for his 18th birthday, in hopes of working on it, Boucher said.
One of the reasons Boucher said it’s impossible the abuse happened was because one of the parish’s employees would have still been present in the rectory when it’s alleged the acts took place.
Called to testify by the defence on Thursday, the employee said they had a “friendly, good working relationship” with Boucher.
The employee said Boucher required they be “present or in the vicinity” when he was meeting with parishioners in his office so they could “more or less observe what was taking place.”
In cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Annabelle Sheppard asked the employee about a recorded phone call they had with Bishop Thomas Dowd, the auxiliary bishop of Montreal, in December 2015.
In the phone call, the employee described the relationship with Boucher as “controlling.” The employee later sent Dowd a letter retracting the comments, but, Sheppard pointed out, the letter came after the employee discussed the phone call with Boucher.
“Was he, in fact, controlling with you?” Sheppard asked.
“At times,” the employee answered.
“Did he ever threaten to fire you?”
“And when you spoke with Bishop Dowd,” Sheppard then asked, “you were telling him the truth?”
“Yes, I was.”
Boucher has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault, sexual interference and sexual touching. He is scheduled for a separate trial in January in which two men allege similar abuse.
Boucher is free on bail, but was relieved of church duties in 2015. He has worked in churches in Montreal, LaSalle, Dorval, Town of Mount Royal and Senneville and served as chaplain at McGill University.
The trial continues Friday with his cross-examination.
A Roman Catholic priest who served Montreal’s English community for decades said he was “shocked” to find out he was being charged with sex crimes.
Fr. Brian Boucher, who is on trial on charges of sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching, testified in his own defence Thursday.
He took the witness box wearing his white clerical collar. Although Boucher is still a priest, the Montreal archdiocese has forbidden him to say mass in public or hear confessions.
Boucher spent several hours Thursday describing his relationship with the complainant in the case. That man, now in his 20s, has accused the priest of assaulting him for three years, beginning when he was 12 years old and escalating in severity.
The complainant’s identity is under a publication ban.
Boucher, who was ordained in Montreal in 1996, said he met the boy through his parents who were actively involved in his parish in the Town of Mount Royal.
The boy became an altar boy and was also very involved with the parish, he said. He acknowledged that the boy sometimes, although seldom, did his homework at the rectory.
“It may have happened once or twice, but not normally,” he said. “I helped his with school, but he would email me an essay to proofread. In terms of being in the parish, at the church, [it was] not that often.”
“He was busy, and I was busy.”
Boy’s sexuality didn’t come up: defendant
Boucher denied ever questioning the boy about his sexuality, except for one occasion. He said when the boy was in his early teens, prompted by the boy’s girlfriend’s mother, the priest confronted him about “immoral acts” the young couple had committed inside the church.
“I looked at [the teen] and said, ‘You have to tell your mother, because if you don’t, I will,'” Boucher testified.
He said the whole incident left him feeling terrible, because the girl’s mother had wanted to make sure the teenagers were chaperoned while at the church, and “I thought I had dropped the ball.”
He also said he felt betrayed by the boy.
“I had trusted him 110 per cent,” he told Quebec court Judge Patricia Compagnone.
“I had assured his mother I would be around — that he would go to such devious ends to do what he did,” he explained.
He said the boy’s mother had been very upset, and the boy himself was upset, “dangling his head against the wall, like, ‘I’m so stupid. I completely f–ked up.'”
He said for a long time after that incident, his relationship with the teen was strained.
“The camaraderie was gone,” he testified. “[The strain] lingered. The rest of the relationship, it was always there.”
Despite that, the priest and the young man took several vacations together, including a week-long trip to Mexico, a road trip to Charlevoix, and once, the man visited him in Washington, D.C., where Boucher was pursuing graduate studies in theology.
He said at one point, when the priest was back in Montreal for a visit, the young man blew up at him, although he couldn’t say what led to it.
“He went by me, cursing and swearing … Nothing happened to warrant that kind of reaction,” Boucher testified. “He dropped profanities … I figured, there’s no talking to him.”
He said he drove to the man’s house and spoke to his mother in the family’s backyard.
Then he went into the house to see the complainant.
“One of the things he was screaming was, ‘You assaulted me. You assaulted me.'”
Boucher testified that the next day, the young man apologized to him at the church.
“I tried to ask him why, what happened. All he said was, ‘Oh, it was just a bad day.’ I found that bizarre, an overreaction like that.”
He said the two of them then went to the tabernacle of the church to pray.
He said he learned from the Montreal archdiocese in the autumn of 2016 that the young man had made a complaint about him. Boucher was arrested in January 2017.
“At that point, I had already been told by the archdiocese of the allegations,” he said. “Nonetheless, I was still shocked.”
Complainant tells a different story
Boucher’s testimony stands in stark contrast to how the complainant described their relationship.
On the first day of the trial, Monday, the man testified that Boucher had harassed and sexually assaulted him for years. He said the assaults eventually stopped, but what had happened to him left him feeling “like a prisoner in my own life.”
He ultimately decided to file a complaint with police.
“What happened to me shouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t be something anyone else has to go through,” he told the court.
The trial continues on Friday.