Former Ottawa priest, Jacques Faucher, convicted of molesting altar boys in 1969-74.
More than a decade before the Archdiocese of Ottawa told Jacques Faucher he could no longer be a priest, it paid tens of thousands of dollars to a former altar boy who had accused the reverend of molesting him.
Faucher was convicted in March of historical sex offences against three other children, but newly obtained documents by the Sun show the diocese wrote a $50,000 cheque to a former altar boy when he was an adult in 1998, more than a year after he told the church about the alleged sexual abuse.
The payment was made on the condition he keep details of the out-of-court settlement confidential.
A copy of a cheque, obtained by the Sun, shows the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Ottawa (RCECO) paid an Ottawa man $50,000 on Dec. 2, 1998. The Sun has redacted his name to protect his identity.
The 80-year-old former priest was found guilty of six counts of indecent assault and gross indecency to three of five boys who testified against him.
The cheque and other historical documents were filed as exhibits at Faucher’s criminal trial, and Ontario Superior Court Justice Pierre Roger recently granted the Sun’s request to access the exhibits.
The judge did not convict Faucher of molesting the man who was paid $50,000, nor of abusing one other complainant. He did not discount their stories, but said he had reasonable doubt as to their allegations.
All the complainants, whose names are shielded by a publication ban, recounted similar stories of Faucher touching them while he sat them on his knee when he was alone with them in his office. The boys attended the former Notre-Dame-des-Anges parish near Tunney’s Pasture, where Faucher was a priest. The charges date back to 1969 to 1974, when the five boys were between the ages of seven and 11.
A week after his 80th birthday last month, the former priest made a courtroom apology to his victims while in the same breath accusing the media of profiting from sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.
While the Faucher verdict made headlines, the story behind the $50,000 cheque, how the diocese responded to the allegations in 1997, and why the first complainant came forward to police 15 years later, have gone untold until now.
One of the exhibits was a letter from Faucher dated Sept. 20, 1999, in which he wrote that he was sorry for the psychological difficulties the complainant suffered following allegations of “inappropriate gestures” around the same time he was at the parish. The letter did not admit to or deny the allegations.
A copy of a letter Rev. Jacques Faucher wrote to the complainant after he alleged he was molested by the priest.
During the trial, court heard the complainant went to rehab at 19 in the throes of his addiction to cocaine and alcohol, and struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder. It was after returning to rehab a second time and getting sober that memories of the abuse came back to haunt him, he alleged.
He decided to write a letter in 1997 to then-Bishop Marcel Gervais, warning him about the priest.
The letter alleged Faucher sat the altar boy on his knee in the reverend’s office and rubbed his back and stomach underneath his shirt. He alleged he could hear the priest panting heavily.
“I write to you on my behalf of concern I have for small vulnerable children that I feel are at risk of a certain priest named Jacques Faucher,” reads the opening line of 19-year-old letter.
“The deeper into the memories I got the more I realized it was sexual abuse,” he alleged.
“I was put in the trust of a priest who was a petafile (sic) which should not have been a priest in the first place and should never have continued to be one.
I want him terminated immediately and I want a reply as soon as possible,” the man wrote.
The diocese conducted an internal investigation before it wrote the man a cheque on Dec. 2, 1998, according to a signed release form with the same date.
A copy of the $50,000 cheque shows it was made out to the complainant from a trust fund belonging to the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of Ottawa.
The release form said the payment was a voluntary gesture made “in a spirit of compassion and justice” so that the complainant could get the help he needed “to relieve him from the trauma, anxiety, and other damages.”
While the document said the diocese acknowledged “that the alleged abuser may have committed the abuses,” it denied any liability.
The complainant was banned from discussing the terms of the settlement or the amount with anyone except professional advisers, caregivers and his immediate family.
It stipulated he was not restricted from reporting the alleged molestation to police.
The document also warned the complainant that if he breached the terms of the agreement he would be forced to pay the diocese a minimum of $20,000.
In 1999, Faucher was removed from ministry duties to keep him away from children.
He was reassigned to oversee “ecumenical and interreligious affairs for a period of time which would not give him access to minors,” wrote Deacon Gilles Ouellette, a diocese spokesman, in a statement emailed to the Sun.
Ouellette did not say whether or not the diocese reported the alleged molestation to police in 1997, but said current policy is to report an allegation of abuse of someone under 16 to the Children’s Aid Society.
While the complainant’s accusations were not upheld in court, it was his initial statement to police in 2012 that sparked the criminal investigation against Faucher. When police announced in a 2013 news release they had laid charges against Faucher, four more men came forward with similar allegations and Faucher was later charged with a total of 14 sexual offences.
Robert Talach, a lawyer known as “the priest guy” after spending more than a decade representing dozens of Canadians who have alleged they were sexually abused by priests, said getting a cheque from the Catholic Church and signing a release form can have a “chilling effect” on victims, even though they are free to report the abuse to police.
“It’s sophisticated and it works. It’s a sophisticated approach to dealing with this which results in no criminal prosecution, or, delayed prosecution,” Talach said.
“These priests get to go on and have years … before the police and their victims catch up to them.”
There is no legal obligation for a diocese to report abuse allegations to police, but there is a duty to notify CAS in accordance with the Child and Family Services Act, according to Talach.
A special report by the Citizen earlier this year revealed the diocese paid out $591,783.45 in compensation to victims in seven of the 12 sexual abuse lawsuits launched since 2011.
At Faucher’s trial, the complainant said it was his understanding in 1998 that Faucher would be defrocked, according to an audio recording of his testimony.
So when he heard in 2011 from a family friend that Faucher “was in the front” of a mass at a church in Aylmer, Que., he called the vicar to express his outrage, he told the court.
“I remember phoning him and just giving him a piece of my mind, you know. How dare they, you know. Don’t you know where your ex-priests are and what they’re doing?” the complainant testified.
“It’s appalling, pretty much.”
He pressed charges in November 2012 after twice seeing the priest on TV.
Five years before police became involved, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast had started a review of all files where priests were alleged to have committed sexual misconduct.
That review led the archbishop in 2011 to remove Faucher’s privileges to represent himself as Catholic priest, said Ouellette, the diocese’s spokesman.
“Archbishop Prendergast advised the Archdiocese of Gatineau of his decision,” wrote Ouellette.
The Archdiocese of Gatineau could not confirm that Faucher was at a church in Aylmer as the complainant had testified. In an email statement, Archbishop Paul-André Durocher said the priest was never assigned to ministry and was never given permission to assume priestly duties in its jurisdiction. He said it’s possible he could have celebrated the sacraments on an occasional basis without being vetted by the parish priest.
“If it happened, I deeply regret it,” Durocher said.
The fate of the former priest now rests with the judge. The Crown is asking for 18 months of jail time for Faucher’s sex crimes, while the defence is asking for a conditional sentence.