Montreal

Montreal priest was 'shocked' by sexual assault allegations, he testifies at his own trial

A Roman Catholic priest who served Montreal's English community for decades testified in his own defence Thursday. Fr. Brian Boucher is on trial on charges of sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching.

Fr. Brian Boucher says he had falling out with complainant, after teen committed 'immoral act' with girlfriend

Fr. Brian Boucher, 57, seen here at the Montreal courthouse on Monday, faces a second trial on similar allegations from other complainants in January. (CBC News)

A Roman Catholic priest who served Montreal's English community for decades said he was "shocked" to find out he was being charged with sex crimes.

Fr. Brian Boucher, who is on trial on charges of sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching, testified in his own defence Thursday.

He took the witness box wearing his white clerical collar. Although Boucher is still a priest, the Montreal archdiocese has forbidden him to say mass in public or hear confessions.

Boucher spent several hours Thursday describing his relationship with the complainant in the case. That man, now in his 20s, has accused the priest of assaulting him for three years, beginning when he was 12 years old and escalating in severity.

The complainant's identity is under a publication ban.

Boucher, who was ordained in Montreal in 1996, said he met the boy through his parents who were actively involved in his parish in the Town of Mount Royal.

The boy became an altar boy and was also very involved with the parish, he said. He acknowledged that the boy sometimes, although seldom, did his homework at the rectory.

"It may have happened once or twice, but not normally," he said. "I helped his with school, but he would email me an essay to proofread. In terms of being in the parish, at the church, [it was] not that often."

"He was busy, and I was busy."

Boy's sexuality didn't come up: defendant

Boucher denied ever questioning the boy about his sexuality, except for one occasion. He said when the boy was in his early teens, prompted by the boy's girlfriend's mother, the priest confronted him about "immoral acts" the young couple had committed inside the church.

"I looked at [the teen] and said, 'You have to tell your mother, because if you don't, I will,'" Boucher testified.

He said the whole incident left him feeling terrible, because the girl's mother had wanted to make sure the teenagers were chaperoned while at the church, and "I thought I had dropped the ball."

He also said he felt betrayed by the boy.

"I had trusted him 110 per cent," he told Quebec court Judge Patricia Compagnone.

"I had assured his mother I would be around — that he would go to such devious ends to do what he did," he explained.

He said the boy's mother had been very upset, and the boy himself was upset, "dangling his head against the wall, like, 'I'm so stupid. I completely f--ked up.'"

He said for a long time after that incident, his relationship with the teen was strained.

"The camaraderie was gone," he testified. "[The strain] lingered. The rest of the relationship, it was always there."

Despite that, the priest and the young man took several vacations together, including a week-long trip to Mexico, a road trip to Charlevoix, and once, the man visited him in Washington, D.C., where Boucher was pursuing graduate studies in theology.

He said at one point, when the priest was back in Montreal for a visit, the young man blew up at him, although he couldn't say what led to it.

"He went by me, cursing and swearing … Nothing happened to warrant that kind of reaction," Boucher testified. "He dropped profanities … I figured, there's no talking to him."

He said he drove to the man's house and spoke to his mother in the family's backyard.

Then he went into the house to see the complainant.

"One of the things he was screaming was, 'You assaulted me. You assaulted me.'"

Boucher testified that the next day, the young man apologized to him at the church.

"I tried to ask him why, what happened. All he said was, 'Oh, it was just a bad day.' I found that bizarre, an overreaction like that."

He said the two of them then went to the tabernacle of the church to pray.

He said he learned from the Montreal archdiocese in the autumn of 2016 that the young man had made a complaint about him. Boucher was arrested in January 2017.

"At that point, I had already been told by the archdiocese of the allegations," he said. "Nonetheless, I was still shocked."

Complainant tells a different story

Boucher's testimony stands in stark contrast to how the complainant described their relationship.

On the first day of the trial, Monday, the man testified that Boucher had harassed and sexually assaulted him for years. He said the assaults eventually stopped, but what had happened to him left him feeling "like a prisoner in my own life."

He ultimately decided to file a complaint with police.

"What happened to me shouldn't have happened. It shouldn't be something anyone else has to go through," he told the court.

The trial continues on Friday.

About the Author

Kate McKenna is a reporter with CBC Montreal. Email her at kate.mckenna@cbc.ca.

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