The Pembroke Observer
22 November 2011
By TINA PEPLINSKIE
What began as social encounters between a teenage boy and Monsignor Robert Borne later turned into three instances of unwanted sexual advances by the Roman Catholic priest, court heard Monday.
Msgr. Borne, 62, is on trial in Pembroke Superior Court, facing two counts each of indecent assault and gross indecency in relation to two male victims, who cannot be identified because of a court-imposed publication ban. The incidents are alleged to have occurred in 1977 and 1981.
On the opening day of the trial, the court heard from one alleged victim, who spent the entire day on the stand recounting the events of the encounters, which occurred in 1981 at the rectory next to St. Columbkille Cathedral, where Msgr. Borne lived at the time. Assistant Crown attorney John Pepper led the witness through his testimony and recounting the details.
The alleged victim, now 49, testified that he first became aware of Msgr. Borne while he was a student at Pembroke’s Catholic High School, where the priest served as one of the school chaplains. The relationship began as one where he would see the priest at mass, evolved into formal conversations in the halls of the school and over time the encounters became less formal and the talk turned to topics other than religion.
The man first had occasion to visit the rectory during school lunch hours with a group of friends. Initially the students would drop by once a week, but the visits became more frequent, especially when it became widely know that Msgr. Borne would provide the students with alcohol, although he never drank himself, the man told the court.
The witness testified that during one of these visits, he and his friend were invited to the second floor of the rectory, where Msgr. Borne’s bedroom was located and where he kept the alcohol. The boys were drinking on this occasion. When the witness’ friend left the room to go to the bathroom and he got up to get another drink, Msgr. Borne also stood up and tried to hug and kiss him and touched his buttocks, he told the court.
After the alleged incident, the man strongly indicated he was not interested in that sort of relationship. By this time, it was widely known that Msgr. Borne was a homosexual, the witness testified. He added the priest had previously indicated he believed the man shared his sexual orientation.
Following the alleged incident, the man continued his relationship with Msgr. Borne, still going to the rectory during school hours with the group. The witness also told the court that he and others would frequently visit the rectory before or after a night of drinking in downtown Pembroke, in particular the Pembroke Hotel which was situated at the bottom of the hill from the church. They sometimes parked at the church and walked to the hotel.
On occasion when he’d had too much to drink and couldn’t drive home, Msgr. Borne would provide rides home for the alleged victim. The first time the man stayed overnight at the rectory was after a night of drinking. Because of the late hour, the priest didn’t want to go out so invited the then-teenager to spend the night in the room across the hall from his bedroom, the alleged victim told the court.
He went to sleep in the room by himself, but some time later he awoke to find Msgr. Borne in bed with him.As he came to, he realized his underwear had been partially pulled down and Msgr. Borne was performing fellatio, the man recounted, becoming choked up and lowering his head before he was able to continue.
When Msgr. Borne realized he was waking up, he stopped, according to the witness, who rolled on his side turning his back to the priest, who lingered a bit before leaving the room. The next morning, Msgr. Borne acted as though nothing had happened and although the man just wanted to leave, the pair had breakfast with Bishop Joseph Windle, who also lived at the rectory, he testified.
Following this alleged incident, the man testified that his feelings toward the priest had changed. A couple of weeks later, however, he found himself extremely intoxicated and he once again went to the rectory after a night of drinking, not knowing what else to do, he told the court. He recalled having difficulty walking because of his level of intoxication, so he settled into Msgr. Borne’s bed, believing the priest was going to sleep in the room across the hall.
Some time later, he woke up again to find the priest in his room and to prevent a repeat of the first alleged incident, he testified that he pretended to be sick, shaking and acting as though he were violently ill. Another priest who lived at the residence was called in because Msgr. Borne was going to call an ambulance if he didn’t get better. Nothing further happened on this occasion.
The man indicated after the third alleged incident, he was a mess and he felt he had to leave Pembroke, which he did after he graduated in June 1981. After that time he had little to no contact with Msgr. Borne.
He man indicated he came forward with these allegations after learning about other related charges Msgr. Borne was facing. He hadn’t said anything before because he believed he was the only one that had been assaulted by the priest. He hoped to bring credibility to the case if more people were saying the same thing about these alleged incidents, he told the court.
Throughout the cross-examination, defence attorney Robert Carew attempted to poke holes in the witness’ credibility, pointing out numerous contradictions between his testimony at trial, a statement he gave to the Ontario Provincial Police in 2009 as part of the initial investigation into the allegations against Msgr. Borne, and his deposition of April 2010.
Mr. Carew painted a picture of a manipulative teenager who took advantage of his client for the rewards of free booze, the use of his car and money from time to time.
The trial continues today. The witness will return the stand for follow-up questions from Mr. Pepper.