Pembroke priest found guilty of indecent assault and gross indecency

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Victim in 1979 incident a 16-year-old boy

The Ottawa Citizen

26 November 2011

Debbi Christinck

A Diocese of Pembroke priest was found guilty on Friday of one charge of indecent assault and one of gross indecency in relation to a 1979 incident involving a 16-year-old boy.

After a weeklong trial, Msgr. Robert Borne was found guilty of two of the four charges against him. The 63-yearold priest was acquitted of charges of indecent assault and gross indecency against another victim who was 19 when the alleged incident occurred.

The priest, who has been on administrative duties with the diocese since his arrest in 2009, took the stand in his defence during the trial.

He admitted he had engaged in mutual fondling with a teenager while in bed in a rectory at Griffith, Ont., but testified he never forced himself on either teen. He also denied repeatedly being a homosexual, although he agreed under cross-examination that he had been involved in several relationships with males.

In cross-examination by Assistant Crown Attorney John Pepper, the priest said he had no sexual motive for fondling the teen’s genitals and the activity ceased shortly after it started because neither was “getting anything out of it.”

The victim, now in his late 40s and whose identity is protected by a publication ban, testified the priest took him on a weekend trip to Toronto and they stayed in Griffith for an evening. He testified he was in bed when the priest began kissing him and went on to perform oral sex. The man told the court he went rigid and tried to black out what was happening to him. When they continued on the trip, he testified, he told the priest he was not interested in a “relationship like that” and the priest seemed to accept this.

The second alleged incident occurred in the St. Columbkille Rectory in Pembroke, where Borne was living at the time. The alleged victim said he would go to the rectory because the priest was liberal in offering free booze to teenagers and would occasionally lend them his car, a spiffy 1978 Cougar. He testified that, one evening when he was drunk, he asked the priest for a ride home and was given the offer of a bed for the night instead.

He testified he woke up during the night to find the priest removing his underwear and performing oral sex on him. When he rolled over to break contact, the priest did not pursue the matter further.

The same witness told the court another incident occurred at the rectory in which the priest again approached him when he was drunk, but he feigned illness to keep the priest at bay.

In her verdict, Justice Julianne Parfett called Borne’s testimony evasive and said his answers defied credulity, logic and common sense. She agreed with the Crown that the only reason the priest would have had for fondling a teenager was for sexual gratification. She also stated Borne was the adult and could more easily control events.

In her verdict, she said his evasiveness on his sexual preferences also called his testimony into question, noting it was generally accepted men who preferred sex with other men were homosexual. Another factor to note is the priest was an adult at the time of the incidents and both complainants were teenagers, still living at home and going to high school, she said.

Although she said the incident in the Pembroke rectory probably occurred, she did not find the witness to be credible because of inconsistencies in his statement to police, in the preliminary hearing and in court.

She said she found the testimony of the witness in the Griffith assault believable.

Borne, who is free on bail, is scheduled to be back in court in Pembroke in April for sentencing.

Well-known in the diocese, Borne’s last posting was in Eganville, where he served at St. James the Less and Nativity of our Lady Mission in Pikwakanagan, as well as St. Ann’s in Cormac. He served as vice-chancellor and chancellor of the Diocese of Pembroke.

Ordained in 1974, he first served a parish in Mattawa. He also worked closely as the assistant of then Bishop Joseph Windle.

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