Former Que. priest accused of sexual assault says he’s innocent
SAINT-HYACINTHE, Que. – A former priest accused of forcibly fondling and engaging in oral sex with several boys between 1976 and 1982 says he did nothing wrong.
Rejean Trudel, 71, was a deputy director of Patro Lokal, a shelter for 12- to 17-year-old boys with family problems in Saint-Hyacinthe, a Quebec town about 60 km east of Montreal.
The shelter was run by the Marist Brothers, an offshoot of the Catholic Church dedicated to education. He was arrested in November after five former residents of the shelter filed complaints.
Now, he’s come forward to deny any wrongdoing.
“The young people in our care were like our own children,” he said.
According to Trudel, who retired from the priesthood about 25 years ago, a majority of the kids in his care had mental health problems and struggled with alcohol or drugs. Many continue to battle those problems today.
He says one boy who came forward has also said that the best years of his life were spent under the care of Patro Lokal.
“Do you really think he would have said that if I had been raping him twice a day, like he alleges?” Trudel asked, adding that if any wrongdoing had taken place, the boys would have confided in the cook, who acted as a mother to many of them.
“At the time, just putting your hand on their shoulder would have been looked down on,” he said. “Sometimes they would jump in your arms for a hug, but you had to keep distant.”
Aside from criminal charges against Trudel and another priest, the Marist Brothers face a class-action suit from the five boys, alleging that the priests used “positions of authority to gain the teens’ confidence in order to commit physical and sexual abuse.”
One victim says that at the time, he thought the abuse was a normal part of a father-son relationship.
Trudel says he holds no bitterness towards his accusers.
“One of them made allegations on Facebook, and I encouraged them to file a complaint with police,” he said.