Priest acquitted of sex assault appointed to downtown church

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Ottawa Citizen

Published on: December 19, 2017 | Last Updated: December 20, 2017 2:44 PM EST

Andrew Duffy

Father Stephen Amesse. –

An Ottawa priest acquitted of sexual assault earlier this year has been appointed to a senior position at Saint Patrick Basilica, one of the city’s oldest churches.

Stephen Amesse’s appointment as associate rector takes effect on Dec. 23, according to the Archdiocese of Ottawa.

Amesse had been charged in December 2014 with the sexual assault of a 14-year-old boy and sexual interference. The incidents were alleged to have happened in 2008.

In May, Amesse, former pastor at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Fallowfield, was acquitted by Justice Martin James, who said he was unconvinced by inconsistent and contradictory testimony in the case.

At trial, the priest’s now 24-year-old accuser said Amesse gave him a body shaver and demonstrated its use on him after a shower, then gave him a massage.

Amesse told court he gave the boy the body shaver as a present since he was interested in bodybuilding, but he insisted that he never used it on the boy or engaged in a massage.

In acquitting Amesse, the judge highlighted several inconsistencies between what the complainant told police in 2014 and what he told court in May.

Outside court, Amesse said he had forgiven his accuser and his family, and would be soliciting prayers on their behalf.

Before entering the priesthood, Amesse served as a Liberal political staffer on Parliament Hill for ten years.

While still a layman, he served on a working group that helped produce the sex abuse protocols issued by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Those protocols were part of a June 1992 report, From Pain to Hope, that was the first of its kind worldwide and aimed to help diocesan leaders in Canada better respond to sexual abuse allegations. Its issuance followed on the heels of disturbing revelations of physical and sexual abuse at the Mount Cashel Orphanage in Newfoundland and at two reform schools in Ontario, all of them operated by the Christian Brothers, an all-male religious order sanctioned by the Catholic Church.

Amesse entered the priesthood in 1999 at the age of 41.

His recent appointment has not been welcomed by Sylvia MacEachern, a local Catholic activist who operates a website devoted to the clergy abuse scandal. On her blog, Sylvia’s Site, MacEachern said she was “sick with this news” of Amesse’s posting, and had filed a note of protest with Archbishop Terrence Prendergast.

“I could not in good conscience stay silent,” she said.

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