Roger Bazin, a 74-year-old former Canadian military chaplain, was looking at a prison sentence for allegedly sexually assaulting (of the anal sex variety) a minor back in 1972.. “But,” you say, “buggery isn’t illegal in Canada.” Which is true: Although it used to be punishable by death in the 1800s, sodomy between two consenting adults has been decriminalized since 1988; bans placed on anal sex between minors, however, remained on the books though some courts have struck them down. (It appears the law does not, however, permit anal sex if more than two people are present.) Except Canada never placed a statute of limitations on buggery charges, which meant Bazin’s decades-old “crime” — having anal sex with another man — was still prosecutable. Alas, he’s getting off. But wait: What about the other “sexually assaulting a teen” charges? Gone too.
Bazin “was arrested in Barrie in February 2010 and charged with buggery, gross indecency and indecent assault on a teenager,” reports Xtra. “The arrest followed a June 2009 complaint, causing the military to investigate incidents dating back to 1972, when Bazin was based at CFB Borden, just outside Barrie. Crown Michael Minns withdrew the charges because ‘there did not exist a reasonable prospect of conviction.’”
But it’s not just Bazin who’s elated at seeing the charges dropped. The Catholic Church is thrilled too!
Bishop Donald Thériault, head of the Roman Catholic Military Diocese of Canada, says he is pleased with this case because “it removes the suspicion of one of our priests who had a wonderful career.”
“We have to presume justice was done. In all fairness for the alleged victim, I don’t know him, but I wish him well. Roger is very happy with the outcome and wants to pursue his life as a retiree,” says Thériault. Thériault says there is a fear among Cathoic priests of being falsely accused of sex crimes. In the last year, he has spoken with Bazin; he noted that the former priest went through a difficult time but says he will move on with his life. “I think when a priest is found innocent, I think he has the inner resources and personal satisfaction to put the weight on his ministry, rely on God and move on and help people. Roger has been a dedicated man even in retirement. I hope he will continue to be a happy man and in good health. But those sorts of situations are always a black eye, tarnishing the church and clergy. For the media, stories like these go up their alley of sensationalism. Because priests are supposed to be celibate, there’s an appreciation of a priest as a trusted person, and there are always questions in people’s minds. People tend to point at priests involved in illicit or inappropriate behaviour. That’s really not the case. Statistics show we have way fewer incidents than other social professions. But the damage has already been done when priests are found innocent or have their charges dropped. It’s a hard thing to deal with in the church, but if we lose confidence, it makes it hard for us to serve people,” says Thériault.
Having faced seven counts, including sexual assault and gross indecency, Bazin now faces no charges. Those charges, which arrived in February 2010 after the alleged victim filed a complaint in June 2009, have also been dismissed after prosecutor Michael Minns told the court, “I’m asking that the charges be withdrawn. … Following the laying of these charges by the military police, what ensued was a direct, a detailed and thorough review of the available evidence in this case by members of the Crown Attorney’s office. The conclusion ultimately reached was that there did not exist a reasonable prospect of conviction.”
And so the Catholic priest will face no criminal charges.