Hundreds of images of child pornography and drugs including marijuana, ecstasy and LSD were found in the home of a retired Boise priest, a prosecutor said at a Monday court hearing.
Longtime Catholic Rev. W. Thomas Faucher, 72, was brought into court in a wheelchair Monday evening for his arraignment on 14 different charges.
Most of the crimes involve Idaho’s law against child pornography: He is charged with 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a child, and two counts of distributing sexually exploitative material involving children. His last two charges are both for drug possession. All of the charges are felonies except for both drug counts.
Faucher (pronounced foh-SHAY) was arrested on a warrant from the Idaho Attorney General’s Office on Friday — the same day investigators obtained a search warrant for his home, which he rents from the Catholic Church.
Officials said little about the charges over the weekend, other than the investigation began with a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Kassandra Slaven offered more context Monday. She said some images on Faucher’s computer involved young children, including infants and toddlers. The images included children being subjected to different sexual acts and torture, she said.
Slaven also described email conversations where Faucher reportedly traded images and talked about his “sexual interest in children.” She said Faucher has a “very sophisticated knowledge” of exchanging and viewing child pornography. And in certain chats investigators viewed, she said, he expressed a desire to molest children. One such chat screen was open on his computer when police served the search warrant, she said.
Faucher talked in the chat about his “desires to rape and kill children,” Deputy Prosecutor Cathy Guzman said at a probable cause hearing earlier Monday.
Judge Michael W. Lojek ordered Faucher held on $250,000 bond — half of what Slaven sought — and directed him to have no contact with any children under 18. He is also forbidden from using the internet.
Faucher’s attorney, Mark Manweiler, argued that his client should be released, pointing to Faucher’s lack of criminal record and “impeccable reputation.” Manweiler said the priest answered five hours’ worth of questions from police, and said there has never been a claim of abuse or impropriety aimed at Faucher despite the “tens of thousands” of children his client has been around.
Manweiler also argued against the no-contact order. He said Faucher was expected to have many community members visit after leaving jail, and he did not want his client to unintentionally violate the order if visitors brought a child with them.
“(Faucher) is well-liked and well-known,” Manweiler said. “He counts among his good friends people at the highest level of both branches, both of state government and our local government and some judicial officials here in Ada County.”
Faucher’s next court date is set for Feb. 15.
Faucher’s activism and pastoral career
Faucher has been retired for three years. “He has not held any pastoral assignments since that time,” the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise said Friday. “Because of the seriousness of the allegations, Faucher will be unable to minister in the Diocese of Boise in any way. The diocese will cooperate fully with law enforcement officials in their investigation.”
He previously was an active priest and canon lawyer, and was an activist on a number of church issues, including the sexual abuse of children by priests. In court Monday, Manweiler pointed to Faucher’s reputation as a progressive activist as one reason to free him from jail.
Faucher’s career with the church took him far and wide before he reached the Treasure Valley. Within Idaho, he has also served in Pocatello, American Falls, Emmett and McCall. He has had pastoral assignments in Oregon and Maryland, and outside of the U.S. has served in Scotland and England, according to a short resume on the Saint Mary’s Catholic Church website. As of Monday, that resume appeared to have been removed.
Faucher grew up in Boise and attended Saint Mary’s as a child. He was ordained in Boise on June 4, 1971, and returned here in 2002 to serve at Saint Mary’s. He joined Saint Mary’s just one month after revelations that a deacon there had viewed child porn.
Faucher has long criticized the Catholic Church’s handling of sexual abuse by its priests. Earlier in 2002, while based at Sisters, Oregon, he told one gathering that the church was looking the wrong way at incidents of molested children, and that Cardinal Bernard Law “should resign” for the events eventually documented in the 2015 movie “Spotlight.”
Faucher wrote to the Statesman in 2010 that 82-year-old Pope Benedict XVI should retire because he was “much too old to lead the church through this mess.”
As a canon lawyer, Faucher sometimes represented other priests, such as in 2014 regarding a priest who had been removed from a parish in Bend, Oregon, for undisclosed reasons.
Throughout his career he has openly spoken out against the death penalty and said homosexuality is not a choice. In 2013, Faucher said he supported same-sex marriages while opposing any requirement that churches perform them.
He also wrote in the Statesman in 2013 that he supported immigration reform, stressing that it was both a moral and economic decision.
Faucher urged greater recognition of women in the church. He was pastor when Saint Mary’s was renovated a decade ago. The renovation included a new painting that showed Mary and Jesus surrounded by 18 women from across Catholic history. “We need to have stronger images of women as the saints of the church, and this is one way of doing that,” Faucher said in 2009.
CORRECTION: Both drug charges in this case are misdemeanors. Online court records originally indicated otherwise.