Retired Alexandria-Cornwall priest found guilty of sexual assault

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Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

By Alan S. Hale, Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

A prominent Roman Catholic priest from Glengarry was convicted Monday of fondling a young man in 2015.

Denis Vaillancourt was found guilty of one charge of sexual assault and is set to be sentenced in early November.

In reaction to the verdict, the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall released a statement describing its regret that “a priest is found to have betrayed his vows and the sacred trust that is expected of a Roman Catholic cleric.”

But the church also stressed Vaillancourt is no longer engaging in active ministry. The diocese says it takes the issue of sexual crimes perpetrated by priests very seriously.

“Any form of misconduct by a member of the clergy or other personnel of the Catholic Church is unacceptable. The Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall has developed extensive procedures to foster a safe environment for all members of our faith community,” reads the statement. “We continue to pray for all those impacted by this very serious situation.”

The Standard-Freeholder reached out to the diocese to ask if it has any other options it is considering with regards to Vaillancourt, or if the criminal conviction alone will be enough. Diocese chancellor Kimberly Walsh responded it would be making a decision on how to proceed after he sentenced and the case is closed completely.

The priest’s crime was that during a visit at the summer cottage owned by the victim’s family, he groped the young man’s buttocks and abdomen while asking about the size of his penis and about whether he “spits or swallows” while having oral sex with other men. Vaillancourt, it was said in court, had targeted the man in his early 20s because he had heard from his grandmother during confession that he was gay.

That the unwanted touching had happened was never in dispute during the trial, but Vaillancourt’s defence counsel argued it had not crossed the line into sexual assault.

The defence argued that a hug shared between the two men prior to the offence had given Vaillancourt an honest but mistaken perception of consent from the young man. And since the victim was not observant, Vaillancourt did not have a position of trust over him that would preclude consent, even though he was the family’s priest.

The judge did not accept these arguments, however, and convicted the priest.

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