Ottawa Priest Charged

December 5, 2014

By: Meghan Hurley, The Ottawa Citizen

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An Ottawa priest who counselled students after the fatal explosion at Mother Teresa High School that killed 15-year-old Eric Leighton has been charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy.

Stephen Amesse, 56, was charged Thursday by Ottawa police with two counts each of sexual assault and sexual interference on a boy under the age of 16.

"These are painful moments in the life of a faith community," the Archdiocese of Ottawa said in a statement. "May the parishioners know the spiritual support of our entire Catholic community."

Police said the investigation was launched in February after the incident was reported to them. The victim was 14 at the time of the offence in 2008, police said.

The Archdiocese of Ottawa said in a statement issued Thursday that Amesse was suspended from his position as the pastor at St. Patrick's Parish when the charges were laid.

Amesse had previously served at Stittsville's Holy Spirit Catholic Church. In response to a national poll about sex abuse cases, Amesse told the Citizen in 2002 that his parish had been growing despite the unhappiness of Catholics with how the church handled the abuse.

Amesse told the Citizen that many Catholics advocate allowing priests to marry and that they make what he thought was a misleading connection between the vow of celibacy and sex abuse.

"I think it's a general concern that people might have that their priests are lonely," Amesse said. "You can be lonely and have a family."

Amesse appeared in court on Thursday and was released on $5,000 bail with the condition that he stay away from children.

Detectives are concerned there may be other potential victims and ask anyone with information to call 613-236-1222, ext. 5944.

With files from Gary Dimmock

mhurley@ottawacitizen.com

Published on December 4, 2014

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