Judge to investigate Montreal archdiocese's handling of priest's sexual abuse

Montreal's archdiocese enlisted a former Quebec Superior Court justice on Monday to investigate the case of a priest found guilty of sexually abusing two boys.

Pepita G. Capriolo will conduct the investigation into Rev. Brian Boucher, a Catholic priest who was sentenced in March to eight years behind bars.

The archbishop said the recently retired judge will examine how the church handled complaints and concerns about Boucher.

"One of the issues concerning Brian Boucher is were there people who came to talk about the problem ... what's the story about who knew what, when?" Archbishop Christian Lepine said in an interview.

Following a trial, Boucher was convicted in January 2019 of sexually assaulting one of the victims. In the second case, he pleaded guilty to sex-related charges as a trial was set to begin just under two weeks later.

Boucher worked in 10 Montreal-area churches between 1985 and 2015.

The abuse took place while he was stationed at two churches, between 1995 and 1999 in the case of one victim and between 2008 and 2011 in the other. Both victims are now adults.

Capriolo will need to determine a timeline of events and come up with recommendations on how to improve procedures. A final report — which will be public — is expected to take about six months to complete.

Separately, the diocese also said it is looking for a someone to conduct an audit of its archives after another retired Superior Court justice appointed to do so in March, Anne-Marie Trahan, died suddenly in July.

The diocese announced earlier this year it would undertake an external audit of its archives and those of four other dioceses that make up the ecclesiastical province of Montreal to assess the number and nature of sexual abuse cases against Catholic clergy between 1950 and present day.

Lepine said the archdiocese remains committed to an audit and hopes to have someone named to conduct it by January.

It has promised the auditor unfettered access to all documents — general archival documents as well as reserved archives typically only viewed with the archbishop's approval.

The mandate is to look at the "number and the nature of well-founded allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against Catholic clergy and mandated lay personnel from 1950 to the present." Lepine said he is still hopeful the work can be completed by spring 2021, as originally planned.

Capriolo said in a statement she is pleased to undertake the work of shedding light on the Boucher situation and has been assured full independence.

"We wanted her help to get a sense of what we could do to improve our processes and what we're doing and our way of listening to people," said Lepine, who has been archbishop since 2012.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2019.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press