The Eganville Leader
11 April 2012
By Debbi Christinck
Pembroke — A man who was indecently assaulted by Msgr. Robert Borne in the Griffith rectory gave his victim impact statement in court on Tuesday morning during the sentencing of the priest and said the assault destroyed his faith in the Catholic Church and changed his life.
“I have lost all faith in the Catholic Church and priests,” the man, whose identity is protected under a publication ban, said.
Prior to this, the church had been a big part of family life since he was raised in a strong Polish-French Catholic family, he said. His parents were loving people who never turned anyone away and taught him at a young age to respect his family, his parents and his church, he said.
“I was taught the value of religion and to have respect for the priests,” he said. “The priests were the father of our church and should have the same respect as my father.”
When he met Msgr. Borne he thought the relationship would be similar to the positive one he had with his father, he said.
“The incident where Bob Borne betrayed my trust has changed my life forever,” he said.
As he read his victim impact statement to the court, Msgr. Borne, dressed in a dark gray suit with no clerical collar, sat impassively. The victim’s wife and parents were also present in court, as were members of Msgr. Borne’s family.
The court had heard during the trial Msgr. Borne invited him to the rectory in Griffith and then to a weekend trip in Toronto. While in Griffith the two men shared a bed and the priest began to kiss the then-16-year-old, then proceeded to perform oral sex on him. During the trial the young man testified he went rigid when this happened because it was unexpected and he did not know what to do. The next day he told the priest he was not interested in that type of a relationship, the court heard during the earlier trial.
This happened 30 years ago, but changed his life forever, he told the court Tuesday morning.
“The concept I had of the Catholic Church had been shattered,” he said.
Since then he is convinced most of the priests and the bishop knew what was going on, he said in his victim impact statement.
“Why did none of the other priests come forward?” he asked. “Were the other priests not concerned with what he was doing?”
Or, were they covering up or doing the same things themselves, he asked.
“My faith in the Catholic Church is gone,” he concluded.
When he was done with his statement, Msgr. Borne’s lawyer, Robert Carew asked if he could question the witness. Justice Julianne Parfett said cross-examination of a victim impact statement was not allowed.
Gravity of Betrayal
Assistant Crown Attorney John Pepper read the victim impact statement of the victim’s mother, who was present in court. She said in order to understand the “gravity of this betrayal” it is important to recognize the role the Catholic Church played in her life. She said going to Catholic school and going to the Cathedral, the church was an important part of her life.
“It was our sanctuary and we were taught to respect the priest,” she said.
When Msgr. Borne befriended her sons she was “both pleased and flattered,” she said.
“That this priest, the bishop’s secretary, would take an interest in our home.”
When years later her two sons — both of whom had a sexual experience with Msgr. Borne — confided in each other about this and then revealed this to their parents, she was devastated. After much deliberation the family decided not to press charges, however, she went to the Bishop’s Palace to confront Msgr. Borne, who denied everything, she said. At the time she felt he would not have let her speak to the bishop since he was the bishop’s secretary. Frustrated, she left.
“I wished to Bob that God have mercy on his soul,” she said.
However, the knowledge the priest had made sexual advances towards her sons made her guilt-ridden and unable to take solace in the church.
“My faith in God did not waver and more and more I turned to God for a solution,” she said.
She eventually spoke to her doctor and parish priest “whose hands seemed to be tied”, she said.
When she read about Msgr. Borne’s arrest she found comfort in the knowledge he would not be able to abuse other boys, she said. At least parents were now aware of the danger, she said.
The abuse by the priest caused her son’s behaviour to spin out of control after he was 16, she said. Since then he has overcome this past in many ways and she is a very proud mother of how he parents his children and what a grandparent he is, she said.
The betrayal by Msgr. Borne was terrible, she said in her statement.
“To have someone you trust worm his way in to your family’s life and stalk your children,” she said.
In her despair, she thought of calling Msgr. Borne’s mother and telling her what her son had done, but she never did so.
“I wish he had never darkened our doorstep,” she said.
In concluding, she repeated the words she used when she confronted the priest many years ago.
“I can only wish God has mercy on his soul,” she said.
Compassion For Priest
Eganville lawyer Stewart Lavigueur spoke as a character witness for Msgr. Borne and said his opinoin of the priest, whom he considers a friend, has not been affected by the negative publicity surrounding his trial.
“No, it has not affected my opinion of Msgr. Borne at all, with what he has done for me and my family,” he said.
He said he met the priest in 1994 and as the parish worked to rebuild St. James the Less in Eganville they became friends.
“My youngest son would drop in and see Monsignor quite a bit,” he said. “He thought a lot of him.”
Msgr. Borne is held in high regard in the community, he said. While the river divides the homes of Catholics and Protestants in Eganville, Msgr. Borne brought people together.
“He had respect and continues to have respect from people,” he said.
His late wife, Maureen, said the priest was one of the best priests the parish ever had because he would go the extra mile for people, he said. In fact, on the day before his trial began Msgr. Borne visited her in the hospital, Mr. Lavigueur recalled. That is the kind of person he was.
After he finished his statement, he spoke directly to Justice Parfett.
“I have been a lawyer for 31 years,” he said. “I know you must show compassion to the victim, but you can also show compassion to the accused as well.”
The court also had 59 letters of support for Msgr. Borne filed by his lawyer.