Retired Vatican Official Sentenced to 4 Years for Sexually Assaulting Boys

January 14, 2008

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A retired Vatican official was sentenced Monday to four years for sexual assaults against 13 boys between 1964 and 1984 in Ottawa and the Ottawa Valley.

Bernard Prince, 72, was sentenced by Justice Julianne Parfett in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Pembroke, Ont., about 150 kilometres west of Ottawa.

Bernard Prince, shown here in a February 2006 photo, was found guilty of one count of sexual assault Monday and pleaded guilty to 12 others.

Bernard Prince, shown here in a February 2006 photo, was found guilty of one count of sexual assault Monday and pleaded guilty to 12 others.(CBC)

In the morning, he was found guilty on one count and subsequently pleaded guilty to 12 more charges involving a total of 13 different boys.

Prince originally had faced more than 30 charges, including buggery, indecent assault and gross indecency, against 13 boys aged 12 to 15, many of whom were altar boys he met in the small Polish community of Wilno, near Algonquin Park.

The incidents took place at Prince's cottage, his Ottawa apartment and at the victims' homes. The victims' families trusted Prince so much that they allowed the priest to share the boys' beds, CBC's Steve Fischer reported.

Defence lawyer Chris Kelly said Prince came back to Canada from Italy of his own volition to face the charges, knowing full well that it would be difficult for the courts to force him to come back if he had refused.

"He has a lot of remorse," Kelly said.

Twelve of the victims were in court Monday and cried and embraced after Prince made his pleas.

Rob Talach, a lawyer representing eight of the victims, said it was significant that Prince admitted the abuse happened and that the public was able to hear the impact on those affected.

"For many of them, you've heard them speak about how [they] never thought they'd be believed, that they thought they were alone," he said.

Talach said the victims he represents plan to launch a civil suit against Prince and the Catholic Diocese of Pembroke.

Before retiring, Prince, who is Canadian, travelled the world to promote Catholicism as secretary general of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

He moved to Rome after his retirement.

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