Pembroke diocese told of sex abuse in 1963, lawsuit alleges

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Toronto Globe and Mail

10 April 2010

Tu Thanh Ha

Bernard Prince shown in a photo that was taken at a wedding in October, 1979.

Bernard Prince shown in a photo that was taken at a wedding in October, 1979.

Bernard Prince twice posted to Rome after accusations surfaced,


Tu Thanh Ha

From Saturday’s Globe and Mail Published on Friday, Apr. 09, 2010 9:17PM EDT Last updated on Friday, Apr. 09, 2010 9:43PM EDT

As early as 1963, the diocese of Pembroke, Ont., heard allegations that a priest, Bernard Prince, was sexually abusing a young boy, but the bishop at that time took no action and Mr. Prince was transferred to Rome, court documents allege.

Mr. Prince went on to molest at least a dozen boys in eastern Ontario until 1984, the former Roman Catholic priest and Vatican official admitted in a guilty plea at his criminal trial two years ago.

The documents are among court filings that include an extraordinary letter the late Pembroke Bishop Joseph Windle wrote in 1993 to the pope’s envoy discussing how to keep the allegations against Mr. Prince from reaching police.

It would be another 12 years before the police received a complaint about Mr. Prince.

Céline Dion with Bernard Prince and Pope John Paul II in the fall of 1984.

Céline Dion with Bernard Prince and Pope John Paul II in the fall of 1984.

The documents were filed at the Pembroke courthouse by the plaintiffs in civil suits against Mr. Prince and the diocese.

They allege that Mr. Prince was twice posted to Rome right after allegations of misconducts were raised, first in 1963, then in 1991.

In an affidavit, a former parishioner named Barry Conway said that he was told by the brother of a local priest, Rev. John Green, that Father Green learned of “Prince’s problems of abusing boys” as far back as 1963.

Read the affidavit (Read Barry Conway’s affidavit, sworn on March 30, 2010)

Mr. Conway said he was told that Father Green had reported the matter to the bishop of the time, the late William Smith.

The documents also show that Mr. Prince was appointed assistant pastor at a parish in Arnprior, Ont., in June, 1963, but by September had been sent to Rome.

The usual term of an assistant pastor is two to five years, the plaintiffs’ lawyer Aaron Lealess said in an affidavit. “An unusually brief assignment, such as Prince’s four-month assignment in Arnprior . . . is usually accompanied by some reason,” Mr. Lealess said in his affidavit.

The filings also detail how Mr. Prince was posted a second time to Rome, in 1991.

In the previous months, in 1990, the diocese heard that a 34-year-old man from Killaloe, Ont., was alleging that he was abused as a young altar server by Mr. Prince.

One court filing is an unsigned August, 1990, letter about Mr. Prince. It begins: “The following information is being forwarded to your Excellency since the priest in question has either worked or is currently working in your jurisdiction.”

The letter says that the diocese heard hearsay allegations from the family of the former girlfriend of the Killaloe man.

“Unfortunately the girlfriend’s sister works for the penitentiary system and she appears to be urging the family to expose the priest,” the document said.

“The father is also a former employee of the same institution and has had in his charge at least one priest serving a term for sexual abuse. The father, however, appears to be more docile.”

The letter also says the victim even considered killing Mr. Prince.

“It was also reported that the victim told his former girlfriend that he planned a trip out of the country – when the priest was also making such a trip – to `do him in,’ since he felt there would be less chance of being caught.”

The Killaloe man eventually spoke to Father Green in October, 1990, and said he didn’t want to report Mr. Prince to police but wanted him get counseling and be supervised.

Other court documents show that Mr. Prince was referred to a Toronto psychiatrist in the fall of 1990, with the help of the Toronto archbishop, the future cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic.

In a statement yesterday, the Pembroke diocese said that those actions showed that the church had “done its best to be proactive and responsible.”

By January of 1991, Mr. Prince was transferred to Rome.

In his 1993 letter to the nuncio, Bishop Windle said he didn’t object to the transfer because it would “remove him from the Canadian scene.”

In its statement Friday, the Pembroke diocese noted that Bishop Windle, in his letter, said it was hard to assess the accuracy of the allegations.

“The Diocese did not at the time, and does not today, feel that the emotional impact on the victims was underplayed or trivialized,” the statement said.

In his affidavit, Mr. Lealess, however, argued that the 1993 letter showed how “one objective of the diocese was avoidance of scandal or harm to the reputation of the diocese.”

“One redeeming factor is that it would appear that the victims involved are of Polish descent and their respect for the priesthood and the church has made them refrain from making these allegations public,” the letter said for example.

“Had this happened elsewhere there would be every danger that charges would have been laid long ago with all the resultant scandal.”

12 Responses to Pembroke diocese told of sex abuse in 1963, lawsuit alleges

  1. monicer says:

    The Polish community in this area are my paternal ancestors. I spent a large part of my youth in this region from the late 40’s to the 60’s although my immediate family had moved to a large Canadian city. There was an almost medieval culture in this isolated, subservient and rigid religious community. These people would face death rather than betray anyone or anything related to their church. I can attest that the collateral damage due to child molestation/pedophilia lasts for generations, not just for the actual victims who are the most critically damaged, but even for anyone who sympathised or tried to intervene, report or similar.

    As was my case. My youngest brother age 12 at the time, finally during another family crisis, blurted out to me that he had been molested for the past six years by a family/relative/priest/whose family were from this area, but now living in the US. Same priest was the most highly honoured and revered guest in our family home: treated like a 5 star general he came often and stayed long, and to me, put my mother who was not well and had 7 children to mind, under further undue domestic burdens.

    At the time I was a university graduate, married with children of my own and I immediately notified a sibling and my father who was a 2nd cousin to the perpetrator. The upshot was I was beaten, abused, ignored and shunned by the entire family. This was ’63. I had offended the patriarchal grid, and that was heresy. Children and women were meant to be subordinates and had no rights. This has only been slightly modified today in my family even though I am now nearly eighty yrs old!
    The abuse continued one more time after my failed intervention, which I was able to stop since I had given my brother implicit instructions to call collect if there was ever further danger to him..since I lived in a far off city. I was able to engineer a rescue from a 1000 miles away, by phone.
    He has survived by repressing most of this ordeal and is considered ‘healed’ by other family members who still consider me a nuisance and a whistle-blower!
    Note: this was still an early time in priest scandal info. The floodgates happened later.
    Note: I followed the career of the abusive relative and noted that over time he was consistently given smaller tasks,sent to farther smaller posts and eventually died. But during this period was still the favoured guest in my parental home. He did not like me, as I was educated and asked questions..and my mother shortly before her death begged the family NOT to let him officiate at her funeral. Request denied of course.
    It was at this funeral, and seeing that priest officiate that my then younger brother blurted out his story to me while we were sitting side by side in the pew.

    • Geenda says:

      That is horrendously sad, I have tremendous respect for you for standing up for your brother. There were very many priests in Pembroke charged with abuse against children, no doubt fuelled in part by the almost blind devotion, respect and admiration afforded to them by these immigrant Christian communities. If you scroll through Sylvia’s site you will see that many priests charged are from Pembroke and area. How wise you are to look back and realize the terrible damage caused by these disgusting wolves, imagine a little innocent 6year old boy. There were many who spoke out and were shunned, as I have said so many times the abuse could not have continued without help at the highest levels. Unfortunately we are just beginning to hear of horrendous abuse committed by priests in small foreign communities, all will eventually come to light and we will stand with those who spoke out against it.

    • Lina says:


      I also have great respect for you “monicer”.

      You broke rank, stood up and believed your brother.
      You did your best under the pressure of so much darkness, evil, and criminal activity that was being pass off for the good of the Church.

      My aunt and her husband are from a Polish community.
      Strong practicing Catholics with 9 children.

      About Bernard Prince my aunt said this years ago:
      “I don’t understand those boys….why did they keep on going back….they should have known better!”

      I notice the way she put the onus on the boys, not on the priest who is the adult.

      Now fast forward to August this year.

      While visiting my aunt recently I calmly ask her:
      What would you have done if one of your son’s told you (priest) Father so and so, molested and abused him?

      Her answer: ‘I don’t know…I would probably…yes, I would keep him home and away from the priest.’

      As for your husband would he go and talk to the priest?

      ‘Oh no, he…we would never go up against a priest!’

      monicer……it’s 2016 and sadly my aunt is not the only one who still holds that crass attitude you describe so eloquently in your about post.

      Thank you “monicer” for sharing your experiences and story at ‘Sylvia’s Site’.


  2. Larry Green says:

    Monicer, sadly, the devastation and destruction that this particular pedophile has delivered to your brother, yourself and your relationship with your family /whole community, is true to form. I am so sorry to hear that the wounds you were inflicted with so many years ago, still hurt so much. Your story illustrates very clearly, the evil force that these child rapists have at their disposal to use for their own “gain.” It is indeed a force, nurtured and fortified by communities of blind followers. It is one powerful wolf, disguised and empowered by countless other clergy of all ranks in the Catholic church. For every wolf , there is a pack behind it is important to beware, that they are actually wolves too. Creatures like Borne and Prince, for example, could never have went through so many years and so many victims without their packs behind them. The predators themselves are despicable creatures but their packs are not much at all less so.

  3. Larry Green says:

    Geenda, I have to admit that I have been moved by anger to speak here. Robert Borne, the convicted sexual predator, is particularly disgusting, because of It’s revolting arrogance. IT thinks it did nothing wrong. I have been cursed with the sorry occasion to greet this thing and IT treated me like I was somehow worse than IT. IT spent an entire life living with people who trained IT to to think that way. Believe me, Robert Borne, you disgusting, revolting and arrogant convicted defrocked child molester, you don’t want another encounter with me, in public!!!!

  4. Larry Green says:

    It will happen sooner or later, and guaranteed, you lose!!!

  5. Larry Green says:

    By the way, BORNE, you destructive child molester, you are being watched closely.Nobody trusts you, and nobody ever should, [words deleted].

  6. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    Larry – my feelings exactly! Borne used to make my skim crawl when he showed up in Bancroft following Windle around like a little lap dog.
    He never harmed me, but I guess in hindsight he never had the chance. Thank you for having the courage to speak up to this vermin. He was a disgrace to the priesthood and the catholic church!
    I’ll be in touch, and thank you! Mike.

  7. Larry Green says:

    He is a dumb […] who only ever wanted to pretend to be a priest so that he would be admired for his holy persona. Thanks Sylvia.

  8. Larry Green says:

    And any time Mike.

  9. Name withheld says:

    Truly the Church and similar powerful organisations are difficult to challenge or stand up to! They represent authority and people fear dismissal or other methods of punishment such as shunning which is done in some faiths.
    As I mentioned in another post, in today’s information age with social media, the internet and cell phones etc. it should be more difficult for these predators to remain hidden. Speaking frankly to our children about private touching etc by no matter who is always useful. You need not be explicit or terrify the young, just common sense. And parents themselves should be sceptical if a child is being asked to be alone with an outsider no matter what the status of that person is. Much of the abuse we have been talking about on this thread comes from a child going off to some camp, home or apartment with a person of influence. My family member was taken often to far off wildernesses/camping trips) where there was no where to run. Rapists never rape in broad daylight on Main Street. Some one on this site calls them wolves…I guess in the biblical sense. But wolves themselves are part of our forests and belong in the natural world and have their role on the planet. Those others are child molesters and rapists.

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