Former Priest Sentenced for Molesting Haitian Boys at Mission

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday April 6, 2010

A missionary from Ontario has been sentenced for sexually abusing Haitian boys, an April 2 story in Canadian newspaper the Vancouver Sun reported. John Duarte, 44, a former priest who had established a mission in Haiti, was sentenced to a year and a half of jail time, though he will be released in eight months because the time he has already served since his October, 2009, arrest will count toward his sentence. Duarte will also be on probation for three years and be registered as a sex offender for the next two decades.

The article said that Duarte, the founder of Hearts Together for Haiti, had traded money, clothing, and educational fees for sex with his victims. In one case, the former priest provided shoes to a male teen for sexual favors. Duarte pleaded for the forgiveness of his victims, family, and friends, telling the court that he had gone to Haiti "for all the right reasons, but in the middle of it all, I got lost."

The former priest had been arrested by in the Dominican Republic by Canadian authorities under Canadian sex tourism laws, the article said. The incidents of sexual abuse took place in Haiti, both at the mission that Duarte had started in Labadie, a fishing village, and in Port-au-Prince. Duarte pleaded guilty to three charges; a fourth could not be pursued because the alleged victim could not be contacted following the recent earthquake that devastated the country.

The case bears striking similarities to that of another man, 39-year-old Douglas Perlitz, who was accused last year of trading food, shelter, and money to homeless young men in Haiti in return for sex, as reported at EDGE in a Sept. 21, 2009, article. Perlitz had founded Project Pierre Toussaint, which is run by Fairfield University, a Jesuit college in Connecticut.

Though seemingly rare, systematic sexual abuse of young people who are orphaned, homeless, or otherwise socio-economically disadvantaged is not unknown. A May 21, 1993, New York Times article relates how the Catholic Church in Quebec falsely classified children at an orphanage as "mentally deficient," in order to get greater funds from the government.

In the mid-20th century, psychiatric facilities in Quebec were given more money than orphanages, providing a financial incentive for reclassifying children whose parents had died or abandoned them as mental patients. But once reclassified, the children were abused in numerous ways, including being subject to sexual assault. Conditions at the church-run facilities were so extreme that one former "patient," Herve Bertrand, told the Times that when he was sent to reform school for reporting a staff member who had sodomized him in an elevator, he was sent to reform school--and that the reform school was, by contrast, "a paradise." Bertrand added that in the psychiatric facility, the children "were slaves. Quebec locked us up and threw away the key."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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