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P.E.I. priest sentenced to 5 years after pleading guilty to sexual exploitation

Maurice Joseph Praught, 70, arrives at a Charlottetown court on Tuesday for the sentencing. (Brittany Spencer/CBC - image credit)
Maurice Joseph Praught, 70, arrives at a Charlottetown court on Tuesday for the sentencing. (Brittany Spencer/CBC - image credit)

A retired Roman Catholic priest on P.E.I. has been sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to four counts of sexual exploitation of a teenage boy in the 1990s.

Maurice Joseph Praught, 70, entered the plea in a Charlottetown courtroom Tuesday morning. He was arrested in 2022 following an RCMP investigation after the Diocese of Charlottetown reported the allegations to police.

He was initially charged with six counts of sexual exploitation and four counts of sexual assault, but the remainder of those charges have been stayed or withdrawn.

The court heard that Praught became a priest in the early 1990s and met the victim, who was 14 at the time, shortly afterward. The victim can't be named because of a publication ban.

Praught often spent time alone with the teen, taking him to restaurants and movies and sometimes on trips out of the province. On one of those trips, the court heard, Praught gave the teen alcohol and initiated sexual acts.

I wish for you that someday, somehow you will know that this is not your fault and that you will find peace in that. — Justice Gregory Cann

The sexual relationship between the two continued for years, including after the victim turned 18, and often involved alcohol.

According to a victim impact statement read aloud in court, the victim has struggled with alcohol abuse and mental health issues throughout adulthood. He's been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has difficulty forming healthy relationships.

Judge hopes victim finds peace

The Crown told the court the joint recommendation of five years' incarceration took into account the impact on the victim and the community, Praught's abuse of a position of trust, and the fact that the abuse took place frequently over an extended period of time.

The defence said Praught's guilty plea indicates he feels remorse, and wanted to spare the victim the trauma that could have been caused by a trial.

After the retired priest's sentencing in a Charlottetown courtroom on Tuesday, the Roman Catholic bishop of Charlottetown issued a statement about the case.
After the retired priest's sentencing in a Charlottetown courtroom on Tuesday, the Roman Catholic bishop of Charlottetown issued a statement about the case.

After the retired priest's sentencing in a Charlottetown courtroom on Tuesday, the Roman Catholic bishop of Charlottetown issued a statement about the case. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Justice Gregory Cann spoke to the victim before handing down his sentence, saying: "I wish for you that someday, somehow you will know that this is not your fault and that you will find peace in that."

Saying the facts in the case speak for themselves, Cann sentenced Praught to five years in prison. Praught has also been ordered not to have any contact with the victim and will be placed on the national sex offender registry for 10 years.

Bishop issues apology

A few hours after the sentencing, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlottetown issued a statement about the case.

"I sincerely apologize to the victim and his family for the abuse, pain and harm that was perpetrated by Father Praught, and I offer my most earnest apology for the failures of the Church," the statement quoted Bishop Joseph Dabrowski as saying.

"I pledge my commitment to doing everything in my power to maintain our vigilance in protecting children and vulnerable adults and to provide compassion and outreach to the victim-survivor of abuse."

The statement noted that the diocese has had a sexual abuse response policy in place since 1992.