Letter to the Editor
Pembroke Daily Observer
10 December 2011
It could be a sad day for sinners, and for all of our Christian churches, alike, if the only people allowed inside our rectories are those with proven track records in sanctity.
Yet, this may have to come to pass, or else our pastors are leaving themselves wide open to the same kind of torture that Monsignor Bob Borne has endured for almost three years, coming to a head in recent weeks. During the week of November 21, his name was splashed all over our Valley newspapers.
But what about his family, a family I have known and loved for more than 50 years? Or, does anyone care any more? The way our modern society operates, as soon as the word “charged” is associated with our name, we have become a criminal, automatically. It doesn’t matter a damn whether we win, or lose in court, the brand still sticks in their minds.
But, let us try to find some fairness in the Borne situation. In delicate matters such as this, it takes two to tango, and if one name can be published, both names should be published. If it was a 10- or 12-year-old, by all means, protect him. But when he is a teenager who considers himself mature enough to consume alcohol, I believe he is old enough to suffer the consequences. Nowhere that I’m aware of was there any evidence of anyone else pouring a drink for him, or pouring it down his throat
I have not tasted liquor or beer for over 42 years, but both are available in our home, at all times. I am not always present where they are stored, so have no rigid control over who consumes them.
We have to wonder just how level are the playing fields, where an adult and teenager are involved? The youth is likely to draw the sympathy of the majority, almost without saying. He is coddled by the Young Offenders Act, or the Youth Justice Act, while the adult has no protection, except his own word.
Once a charge is laid, this is where the real injustice is more evident, because the police and Crown adopt devious ways of putting pressure on the complainant, because these people never want to lose face. They have three faces to save – the defendant has only himself. Let them try to deny that they apply pressure, I doubt if many would believe them.
Then, when the litigation lawyer appears on the scene, the complainant is constantly reminded of the big bucks he is going to haul in – the more graphic his evidence, the greater the pile of money. We wonder if they confess to him that they are going to skim possibly 25%, 35%, or more off the top, before he sees any of the money?
Once this kind of situation hits the legal level, it becomes messy, and should never escalate to that level. If there is to be real justice, these matters should be settled with nobody else present, except the claimant, his parents, the priest, and the bishop. It is the only way that is fair to all concerned because the identity of both parties can be protected. Unless there is a real breakdown between bishop and priest, it is highly unlikely that there will be a second offence – once is too often.
It is common knowledge that where there is an effect, there also has to be a cause.
Why do some priests go wrong? A more fitting question would be: Why are there so few who step over the traces, while there are hundreds of thousands, world-wide, who live up to our high expectations of them? We expect them to be God, while we overlook the fact that they are, also, just as human as we are. Has anyone who read all this sensational stuff in the newspapers recently, given any thought to what the life of a priest is really like?
Having studied in a seminary for 3 1/2 years, I believe I can hazard an educated guess. As I see it, our training is directed more to the positive side of priestly life, but not enough training to prepare us for the negative side, the greatest hurdle being how to cope with loneliness. No question about it, the life of a priest can be more lonely than that of a Maytag repairman, especially starting out, where he is assigned to a parish way back in the boondocks.
Too often, liquor can be his constant companion, and we are told that liquor played a part in Bob Borne’s nightmare. The real tragedy is that there was no mention, during the trial, of the hundreds of youths he helped to set on the right path.
I was involved in sports for a great number of years, both in Pembroke, and in the township, where I served as clerk-treasurer, and heard nothing but high praise for the young priest, from the young people who knew him well. Not one — I repeat, NOT ONE – ever mentioned one word about questionable behaviour, and many of them had served Mass for him, and had gone with him to out-of-town sports events.
Never, in his lifetime, has he needed those friends to rally around him, more than right now. It may do all of us the world of good to remember that old admonition: Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.
Al Donohue, Pembroke,ON