Friday, 16 February 2018

Backlog: Former Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops communications director receives prison sentence for production and distribution of child pornography

As reported by Alan Hustak of the Canadian publication Catholic Register, March 24, 2015:

MONTREAL - A Catholic deacon who was arrested with more than 100,000 pornographic pictures of children was sentenced Mar. 24 to two years less a day in prison.

William Kokesch, a former communications director for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, will also serve two concurrent sentences — 14 months for the publication of child pornography, and 12 months for distribution. He will be eligible for parole in four months, after serving one-sixth of his sentence.

Before he was sentenced, Kokesch, a former deacon at St. Edmund of Canterbury church in the suburb of Beaconsfield, said his belief in God has become stronger because of the ordeal.

He apologized to the court for all the damage he has caused, saying that since being arrested in December 2012 he has had time, “to recognize the source of character flaws that played a role in what I did. Through the help and support of an extraordinaroly loving wife, some close friends and neighbours, my family, self-help groups, and the professional and spiritual counselling I am undergoing, I have grown greatly as a person, rebuilding my life into one that is wholesome and good.”

Defence lawyer Jeffrey Boro said he believes Kokesch has come a long way during more than two years of therapy, and suggested “there are many other people, many more than we know, that have the same problem.”

Kokesch had been undergoing a period of psycho-sexual treatment before he was sentenced. He was relieved of all pastoral duties the day after his arrest. But the damage to the parish was widespread. The church has lost parishioners as a result.

Kokesch studied at Concordia University in Montreal, worked for The Gazette and for CTV, and in 1981 was ordained a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church. The married father of five adult children became the spokesman for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on a number of burning issues in the early 2000s.

He was widely quoted in the media during coverage of sexual abuse allegations in 2002. His message was that reconciliation and healing take time. He also boasted that the Canadian bishops adopted a zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse 10 years before their U.S. counterparts.

Kokesch organized the Canadian delegation to World Youth Day celebrations in Germany in 2005, and was quoted in the Globe and Mail about the importance of harnessing youthful energy in the wake of the 2002 event in Toronto.

“Spirituality is more important than the physical act of going to church. The most important thing is how you live your life, our prime goal is to get people to do things that are Christian, to care for others, for the poor and for the sick," he was quoted in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.

After he has served his sentence, Kokesch will be on probation for three years, and has been prohibited from using the internet and being near children under the age of 16 for 10 years.
When he was arrested, the following was reported by Giuseppe Valiante of QMI Agency, December 22, 2012:

MONTREAL - A well-known Montreal-area Deacon who once spoke on behalf of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, has been charged with production and distribution of child pornography.

William Kokesch, 65, appeared in a Montreal courtroom Saturday afternoon via videoconference. The day prior, based on a tip from the public, Montreal police searched two locations in the city’s west end, including Kokesch’s home, and allegedly found more than 2,000 child porn images.

Montreal police spokesperson Dany Richer wouldn’t give details about Kokesch’s alleged victims. Nor would he say if any of the children in the images seized from Kokesch’s home were members the church.

Before his arrest, Kokesch was Deacon at St. Edmund of Canterbury, a Catholic church in the town of Beaconsfield, which is on the island of Montreal. Kokesch used to work as spokesman for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and was involved in the World Youth Day celebrations in the cities of Cologne, Toronto, Paris and Rome.

The Archdiocese of Montreal announced Saturday afternoon in a news release that it “removed (Kokesch) from all ministry and pastoral activity.”

“Having just learned of the charges against Mr. Kokesch, the diocese is profoundly upset,” reads part of the statement. “Child pornography is an affront to human dignity, and our first concern rests with those who are its victims.”

Kokesch also used to work as a journalist for several Montreal-area media organizations.

Bob Benedetti, Beaconsfield resident and the town’s former mayor, worked with Kokesch in a Montreal newsroom in the early '80s.

Benedetti said he was “completely shocked” at the news that his former colleague was charged with production of child pornography.

He said Kokesch was well known in the Beaconsfield community.

“I knew him as a good guy,” Benedetti said. “He was a straight arrow — if you’d ask me who was the least likely person to be involved with (child pornography), I would have said Bill Kokesch.”

Members of the St. Edmund’s parish who were reached by QMI Agency on Saturday also expressed shock at the news.

“You’ve got to be kidding, I don’t believe that at all,” said Dianna Poisson, president of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada, a St. Edmund church group.

Kokesch will remain in jail until his next court appearance, which is scheduled for Monday.

Calls placed to Kokesch’s home were not answered.
As reported by Mr. Valiante on December 23, 2012:

MONTREAL - Churchgoers at Montreal's St. Edmund parish on Sunday largely refused to comment publicly on the child pornography charges against their former Deacon, William Kokesch.

"You can't ask me anything and I really don't think the media should be here," said a female parishioner as she exited the church, in the city's west end.

QMI Agency approached more than 30 people outside the church after Sunday mass and almost all refused to talk.

St. Edmund's head priest, Rev. Joseph Sullivan, also refused to be interviewed. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Montreal stood close to Sullivan after mass and didn't let QMI Agency anywhere near the priest.

Montreal police said that on Friday, they found more than 2,000 child pornographic images after searching Kokesch's home and another location. Kokesch appeared in court Saturday to face charges of production and distribution of child pornography.

Eric Durocher, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Montreal, told QMI Agency that "as far as we know, (Kokesch) was never alone with children; there was always another adult present."

Kokesch was the co-ordinator of the church's altar service and he worked closely with Rev. Sullivan, Durocher said.

The few parishioners who agreed to speak to QMI Agency on Sunday withheld their names.

"I am disappointed," said one mother, on her way out of church. She said she didn't think Kokesch harmed any of the children in the church community.

"I don't think he did - I hope he did not."

A father walking with his kids outside the church told QMI Agency that he too didn't think Kokesch harmed any children.

"I think it's mainly Internet stuff," he said. "I'm not worried he victimized people here."

Kokesch is currently detained by police. His next court appearance is scheduled for Monday.

Kokesch was involved in the World Youth Day celebrations in the cities of Cologne, Toronto, Paris and Rome.

And as a spokesman for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, he gave media interviews regarding sex abuse scandals in the church.

He reportedly told the Globe and Mail in 2002 that the process for choosing people to study for the priesthood was being reformed in order prevent predators from becoming priests.

The Archdiocese of Montreal announced Saturday afternoon in a news release that it "removed (Kokesch) from all ministry and pastoral activity.

Given his conviction, it seems that Mr. Kokesch wasn't the "straight arrow" that he appeared to be. If he hasn't reoffended, he's now free, with his probation due to expire this year.

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