15 April 2012
Former Halton priest awaiting sentence on sex crimes. Former Catholic priest James Boudreau before his appearance earlier this year at Guelph’s Ontario Court of Justice. Boudreau is to be sentenced next month for sexually assaulting two boys in the 1980s. He served as an associate pastor in Oakville between 1985-89 and as pastor of a Burlington church between 1996-2002. Scott Tracey, The Guelph Mercury
One of the sex assault victims of defrocked former Halton priest James Boudreau says his life spiraled downward from the abuse like a blow from a “wrecking ball” from which he still hasn’t recovered.
“It left me completely devastated and forever changed,” the victim, who cannot be identified, said in a victim impact statement offered last Friday at a sentencing hearing in Guelph for Boudreau. To this day, the testifying victim struggles with depression, isolation, loss of faith, despair and shame, court heard. He’s lost friends and fears his identity becoming public.
Boudreau served as an associate pastor at Oakville’s St. James Roman Catholic Church from 1985-89 and was pastor of St. Gabriel Roman Catholic Church in Burlington from 1996 to 2002.
The victim, 17 at the time of the offence, during the 1980s, termed the assault “an act of betrayal,” from a priest he greatly admired. “I became the unwitting victim of a cunning aggressor” who wanted him for “his perverse sexual pleasure,” court was told.
There were clashes Friday over the appropriate penalty for the former priest. Crown prosecutor Steve Hamilton urging the court to issue a jail term and defense attorney Roger Yachetti, of Hamilton, suggested a conditional sentence would be an appropriate disposition.
After a lengthy day of submissions, Justice Gary Hearn adjourned sentencing of Boudreau, who earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of sexually assaulting the boys almost 30 years ago, when they were 15 and 17 years old.
“This is a very difficult sentencing,” Hearn said, in putting it over to May 28.
The short, goateed Boudreau, 69, expressed regret when Hearn offered an opportunity to address the court.
“I have great remorse over events of the past . . . and I am truly sorry,” Boudreau said, describing his action’s as “scandalous” to the Catholic Church’s local Hamilton Diocese. The courtroom appeared divided Friday, with supporters of the ex-priest on one side, victim family members on the other, as defense and prosecution presented sentencing options.
In 1983 at his rectory, Boudreau sexually touched a 15-year-old boy, court heard on a previous court date. A year later, he engaged in oral sex with his other victim.
Yachetti noted Boudreau resigned as a priest when a bishop asked him to after he admitted the offences, an act that also preserved his church pension.
He also pointed to a psychological report that asserted Boudreau was not a pedophile and referred to numerous letters of support for the former priest that described him as inspirational, compassionate and understanding.
“Jimmy, we are here for you,” he quoted one woman’s letter.
Five character witnesses, including retired Father Edward Hampson, of Dundas, testified Friday that Boudreau was honorable, funny, “nice” and deserving of respect.
“I would trust him with my life, would trust him with my family,” Hampson said. “My opinion of who he is has not changed.”
That was a theme among the witnesses: they were willing to forgive.
In fact, friend Wendy Bedirian, of Kitchener, went further, suggesting he’d suffered enough with his loss of reputation and position with the church.
“He’s been destroyed,” Bedirian said.
Yachetti pondered how to reconcile these kind words with the crimes, before offering an explanation.
“It was a failure of humanity — my client’s humanity,” Yachetti said.
“No question the offences here are serious,” Yachetti told the judge. But he suggested mitigating circumstances, including the decades since the offences and their isolated nature.
“There is no (criminal) record here of any kind,” he said. Boudreau has generally “led a good life.”
Yachetti also suggested the former priest had suffered tremendously. “What he has brought upon himself is a lifetime of vilification and humiliation.”
In jail, he would be a target. “I can almost guarantee it,” Yachetti added.
But Hamilton said the victims mustn’t be forgotten. They were boys at the time and “the facts are very aggravating.” He said Boudreau was in a position of trust when the crimes occurred. Hamilton added the fact the younger boy had suffered sexual abuse in an earlier, unrelated case made matters worse.
The prosecutor also said Boudreau’s assaults on the boys appeared to escalate in severity from the first instance to the second. Boudreau, he said, “has left two men emotionally scarred.”
“This case,” Hamilton said, “calls out for a traditional jail sentence.”
Monsignor Vincent Kerr, Chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton said in a statement after Boudreau was arrested by Guelph police in 2011, that a letter was sent to all the affected parishes.
Kerr said at the time that Boudreau had a clean record and described him as “an extrovert” with a “certain style” and “effusive personality.”
In 1978, Boudreau was ordained in the United States into the Barnabite Catholic order, Kerr said.
He began his career the same year at St. John the Baptist in Guelph as an associate pastor. He remained there until 1985, when he was sent to St. James Roman Catholic Church in Oakville, where he stayed until 1989.
From 1989 to 1996, Boudreau worked at Our Lady of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church in Stoney Creek, where he became a full pastor.
He was a pastor at St. Gabriel Roman Catholic Church in Burlington from 1996 to 2002, St. John’s Catholic Church in Kitchener from 2002 to 2009 and, finally, at Canadian Martyrs Roman Catholic Church in Hamilton in 2009.
He retired in December that year and was living in Hamilton.
— with files from The Hamilton Spectator