CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

Cloud removed from Caledonia pastor as computer porn suspicions prove false

By 
  • August 13, 2014

Two months after the OPP seized a computer from St. Patrick’s parish in Caledonia, Ont., looking for child porn, police have returned the computer and closed the investigation — no child porn, just annoying pop-up advertising the computer’s firewalls were not equipped to block.

St. Patrick’s pastor Fr. Mario Fernandes lived and ministered under a cloud for two months while the Ontario Provincial Police’s Child Sexual Exploitation Section investigated.

“It was very stressful,” Fernandes told The Catholic Register. “When people label you for no reason when you’re not involved in that sort of thing, and here the whole town is concerned about that.”

But two months is lightning fast when it comes to computer crimes and sexual exploitation, said investigating officer Doug Rees.

“Usually an investigation goes 12 to 18 months,” he said. “Because it’s computers and it’s forensics.”

The OPP went out of its way to let Caledonia residents know they had cleared Fernandes.

“One of the biggest issues that we run into is the stigma that is attached to a number of different images within our community and the rumour mongering that goes on when something like this has happened,” OPP Officer Mark Foster told CHCH News.

“My prayer life and the support of the parishioners helped me go through this, and I pray nobody (else) has to go through this,” Fernandes said.

“We are all very grateful for this outcome and thankful for everyone’s prayers and support of those involved in the investigation,” said St. Catharines Bishop Gerard Bergie in an e-mail.

Fernandes remained in active ministry throughout the investigation. St. Catharine’s policies for allegations of misconduct or abuse of minors leave the question of suspensions during an investigation up to the discretion of the bishop. Because no charges had been laid, Fernandes did not expect to be put on administrative leave. 

Fernandes has been at St. Patrick’s for a year. He previously worked as an addictions counsellor in Vancouver’s notorious downtown east side.

The pastor hopes to stay with his parish for a good while to come.

“This is something that was not true, so why should I run?” he asked. “I prefer to face it and go forward.”

He has also updated the software on the parish computer.

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