Parishioners were ‘stunned’ by news of priest’s arrest, spokesman says
A retired Boise priest who was accused of amassing thousands of child porn images and videos on his home computer— and pleaded guilty in September to sharing some of those images online — will be sentenced at the Ada County Courthouse at 9 a.m. Thursday.
And among those watching will be Roman Catholic Church officials.
Prosecutors have said they plan to recommend that a judge impose a 30-year prison sentence on the Rev. W. Thomas Faucher, with 20 years before he’s eligible for parole. That would be a de facto life sentence for the 73-year-old, who has a debilitating blood disorder and uses a wheelchair.
Faucher’s attorney, Mark Manweiler, can ask for Faucher to be released on probation and given credit for time served, or that he serve out any additional jail time on house arrest. Fourth District Judge Jason Scott is not bound by the recommendations from either side.
Officials from the Diocese of Boise will be in court Thursday for the sentencing, diocese spokesman Gene Fadness told the Statesman on Wednesday. Fadness said he will be there, and possibly Chancellor Mark Raper.
Faucher, a Boise native who was a priest at Saint Mary’s before retiring in 2014, was arrested Feb. 2 at the home he rented from the diocese.
“It’s been agonizing every day for the parishioners at Saint Mary’s and for those in the community, even outside Saint Mary’s,” Fadness said. “He was not just a priest, but a prominent priest, well known. This has been very difficult for everyone involved. I think tomorrow will hopefully put a sense of closure to it, as far as the criminal prosecution.”
Fadness said church officials haven’t seen evidence that Faucher has taken full responsibility for his actions, and he has not apologized. In pleading guilty to five of the 24 charges against him, Faucher said that he didn’t remember sharing child porn with others because he had alcohol-induced depression and dementia.
“We were disappointed in his response and his defense,” Fadness said. “He made it sound like it was a rare thing, and it only happened once or twice, and he was under the influence. The blame was on everything and everywhere but him, it seemed. That was disappointing.”
Diocese officials plan to start the process within the Catholic Church of having him removed from the clerical state, an action that’s referred to as “laicization.” Technically, Faucher would still be a priest, but he would lose the authority bestowed upon those who have been ordained.
“Almost immediately after tomorrow, we will submit our case to Rome,” Fadness said. Faucher’s “faculties” were revoked after he was arrested, prohibiting him from celebrating Mass publicly.
After Faucher was sentenced Thursday, the diocese issued a press release announcing that it would seek his removal from the clergy.
“The volumes of shocking information that the law enforcement investigation uncovered reveal the heinous nature of child pornography and the tragic impact upon its victims.,” the release said. “While we cannot begin to fathom what brought Faucher to the point that he was able to enter into this evil and dark world, we are thankful for the efforts of the law enforcement community in doing what it can to protect our children from these crimes.
Police obtained a warrant to search Faucher’s home on Feb. 2 after they received a tip from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. He was arrested and booked into the Ada County Jail that day.
Prosecutors said they found more than 2,000 photos and videos depicting child sexual abuse on Faucher’s computer and phone. They said he spoke in online chat rooms about having a desire to rape and kill children; his attorney said at least one of those conversations was Faucher “role playing” with an author in Brazil.
He was charged with 21 counts of felony sexual exploitation of a child, one count of felony possession of a controlled substance (LSD) and two counts of misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance (marijuana and ecstasy). He pleaded guilty to two counts of distribution of sexually exploitative material, two counts of possession of sexually exploitative materials and one count of drug possession.
The diocese evicted Faucher while he was being held in the Ada County Jail, and they had the house exorcised before selling it.
After Faucher’s arrest, two men came forward to church officials and prosecutors to accuse him of sexually abusing them when they were children several decades ago; they told officials that they wanted to remain anonymous. One of the men spoke to the Statesman for an article that ran in June. No charges have been filed in those cases.
Fadness said the diocese offered to cover the costs of counseling for both men; one accepted and the other declined.