Bishop Accountability
 
  Manchester NH Resources – September 2003

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Bishop Guertin Suit Struck Down by Judge

The Associated Press
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
September 4, 2003

Nashua (AP) — A judge has struck down a proposed class-action lawsuit filed against Bishop Guertin High School and the religious order that owns it by four men who claim they were sexually abused while they were students.

The ruling by Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge William Groff means each of the men will have to sue the Catholic high school and the Brothers of the Sacred Heart separately, according to their lawyer, Peter Hutchins.

“The order and the high school are pleased with the court’s decision and we will continue to press forward treating these cases as individual claims,” said their lawyer, Matthew Cairns. “We’re pleased with the outcome.”

Hutchins sued in February on behalf of three clients and any other people who claim they were sexually abused by members of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. A fourth plaintiff was added to the suit later.

The suit claims the school and the order had a “lax and tolerant attitude” about teachers accused of molesting minors. Hutchins said he believed there could be dozens of other students who were sexually abused by brothers at the school who have yet to come forward.

“My hope ultimately was that working within the concept of a class-action would engender the type of cooperation that lends to a settlement and avoids a trial,” Hutchins said. “I don’t mind trying the cases, but litigating and trying every case is not the way to go. It’s damaging to the victims, it damages the school and the brothers.”

Hutchins said the Diocese of Manchester used the avenue of a class-action lawsuit to settle claims against it. He thought it made sense to do the same here.

In court filings, the school and the order have sought to have other cases thrown out of court. In interviews, lawyers have said the school and the order have no legal or moral obligation to the former students at the school who claim they were sexually abused.

The three men who originally brought the lawsuit claim they were sexually abused by Brother Guy Beaulieu, a former teacher at the school. A fourth plaintiff, claimed he was sexually abused by Leon Cyr, a former history teacher at the school.


Clerical Doubletalk Raises Doubt about Investigation

By Jack Kenny
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
September 7, 2003

The return of Father Paul Gregoire to St. Charles Borromeo Church last Sunday should have brought "closure" to the questions and the controversy that have hung over the Dover parish since the 74-year-old pastor was placed on administrative leave in December.

The suspension followed an allegation of sexual misconduct lodged by a woman who claimed the priest had touched her breast 30 years earlier when she was a teenager. Gregoire denied the charge and the diocese recently announced an investigation had uncovered "insufficient evidence to support the accusation."

According to the diocesan news release, the Vatican had "affirmed the recommendation of Bishop (John) McCormack that Father Paul Gregoire return to active ministry."

But some parishioners have expressed doubts about the bishop's role in the Gregoire case. Some remain convinced their pastor was a convenient scapegoat for the bishop at a time when McCormack was under fire for his handling of clerical sex abuse allegations in the archdiocese of Boston and the diocese here was facing possible child endangerment indictments, following an investigation by the state's attorney general.

In June, members of the pastoral council began petitioning for the pastor's return and, in a rare statement of defiance toward a bishop, sent an open letter to newspapers calling on McCormack to "take your baggage, step aside and let somebody who is credible judge Father Gregoire."

So what really happened? Did McCormack suspend Gregoire to take some of the heat off the diocese and himself? Was the priest's reinstatement due to "insufficient evidence to support the accusation," or was it a move to placate angry parishioners? The contradictory statements made by the bishop and the Rev. Edward Arsenault, chancellor of the diocese, have only added to confusion and concern about how church officials deal with allegations of this sort.

Arsenault insists the investigation was not concluded until June and, based on its findings, the bishop made his recommendation to the Holy See. But both men made previous statements indicating the case had been decided much earlier, and with an opposite conclusion.

Way back on Dec. 19, Arsenault sent an e-mail about the pastor to a Dover parishioner. "The diocesan review Board and Bishop McCormack found the evidence in this case was unambiguous," the chancellor wrote. "The act of sexual misconduct occurred with no doubt in the mind of the Diocese Review Board or Bishop McCormack."

Gee. It sounds like the bishop and the board had their minds made up and there was no need to confuse them with an investigation. But there was indeed a "thorough investigation," the bishop explained in a March 24 letter to Father Gregoire's parish council.

"The accusation has been determined to be credible by the Diocesan Review Board after a thorough investigation by the Office of the Delegate," wrote McCormack, saying he had no plan to assign Gregoire to ministry. Now if the charge had been judged credible in March "after a thorough investigation," how was it determined in June that there was "insufficient evidence" to support it?

"I understand that you can read that (March 24) letter and assume the investigation was complete," Arsenault told The Associated Press. "I regret that is how it reads because the investigation was not concluded."

Well, OK, perhaps it's just a misunderstanding. Maybe a determination made "after a thorough investigation" really means a tentative conclusion reached while an investigation is still in progress. Maybe Arsenault's December statement that there was "no doubt" about sexual misconduct by Father Gregoire 30 years earlier really meant that church officials were only beginning to look into the matter. It depends on what the meaning of "after" is or if a statement of "no doubt" is meant to convey a certain conclusion.

The bishop has promised to "do all I can to restore the good name" of Father Gregoire.

Considering those earlier statements by both McCormack and Arsenault, the priest might wish the bishop wouldn't help him so much.

He may well be innocent of the charge lodged against him 30 years after the alleged offense. So might others of the priests who have been similarly accused and dismissed from ministry, their own good names ruined by the allegations.

We might well wonder how many of the 19 New Hampshire priests suspended by the bishop in February 2002, most of them on accusations of sexual abuse that allegedly occurred decades earlier, were also innocent. What sort of evidence, aside from the "repressed memories" of alleged victims, does the Church rely upon in evaluating such charges?

"This situation was handled no differently than any other complaint that we got," diocesan spokesman Patrick McGee said of the Gregoire case. Perhaps that only underscores the problem.


Reinstated Priest Challenges Bishop

By Associated Press
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
September 8, 2003

Dover (AP) -- The Catholic priest reinstated at his Dover parish after a sexual misconduct allegation was rejected by the Vatican is challenging Bishop John McCormack's version of the episode.

McCormack has said he supported the Rev. Paul Gregoire's attempts to get his job back, even though the suspended Gregoire from the parish and said the sexual misconduct claim was credible.

But Gregoire, 74, is circulating his private correspondence from the Vatican and says he has seen no evidence of McCormack's support.

"(McCormack) has got a PR man that can speak for him," Gregoire, 74, told the Concord Monitor. "But it's always one-sided. People should know the facts."

Gregoire's letter from the Vatican, which he distributed at weekend Masses in the parish bulletin at St. Charles Borromeo Parish, says Vatican officials cleared him and granted his appeal of his removal because they didn't see enough evidence to support the allegation against him.

The Vatican letter does not acknowledge any support for Gregoire from McCormack, who has said recently that it was he who told the Vatican to return Gregoire to active ministry.

"Having carefully studied the acts presented by Bishop McCormack, this (Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith) has concluded that the evidence presented is insufficient to support the allegation of sexual abuse of a minor in your case," the Vatican letter said.

"The (congregation) . . . is disposed to grant the (appeal) which you presented against Bishop McCormack's (decision to put you on leave)."

Pat McGee, spokesman for the diocese, refused to acknowledge the Vatican's conclusions until he learned Friday afternoon that a reporter had seen the Vatican's letter to Gregoire. Friday night, McGee sent an e-mail response that said Rome had sent a second letter to McCormack that concurred with McCormack's version of events, namely that McCormack had deemed the evidence against Gregoire lacking and had recommended the Vatican return him to ministry.

McGee declined to release a copy of the letter or a copy of McCormack's recommendations to Rome regarding Gregoire.

Gregoire said he does not have a copy of the letter. McGee refused to speculate as to why Gregoire's letter from the Vatican did not acknowledge any support from McCormack.

The Gregoire case began in August 2002, when the Diocese of Manchester learned in a phone call from the Seattle diocese that a woman there had just accused Gregoire of touching her breast while hugging her 30 years earlier.

Gregoire was assigned to the accuser's parish and was close with her family. He said the woman alleged the incident had happened during a holiday dinner in 1971 or 1972 at her family's home with her parents and brother in the room.

After the Manchester diocese interviewed the woman by telephone in September 2002, a priest working with the Diocesan Review Board questioned Gregoire. Gregoire said he recognized the name of his accuser because he remains close with her family and knew she had struggled with a lifetime of mental instability and hospitalization.

He acknowledged he had likely hugged her and didn't dispute that he could have brushed her breast, but insisted it hadn't been sexual.

McCormack put Gregoire on administrative leave last November, saying he and the Diocesan Review Board considered the allegation credible, Gregoire said. McCormack also requested Gregoire resign.

"I was stunned," Gregoire said. "When he asked if I had anything to say, I said 'You're kicking me out, but I'm not resigning.'"

While Gregoire refused McCormack's orders to resign and challenged McCormack privately with two appeals to the Vatican, Gregoire's parish council sustained a public fight to restore their priest.

In the nine months between Gregoire's removal in December and his reinstatement last month, Gregoire said he never heard a word of support from McCormack.

"The only times we conversed was when he wanted me to resign," he said.

Gregoire said he first heard McCormack express confidence in him on Aug. 21, a week after the Vatican's decision had been received at the Manchester diocese.

Gregoire still questions why his letter reads differently than the one McCormack has told parishioners and the state's priests he received from the Vatican.

"It doesn't mention that he interceded for me," he said. "I think it would be in there."


Bishop McCormack in Center of Real Estate Battle

By Associated Press
September 17, 2003

Manchester, NH -- Bishop John McCormack wants to sell the Manchester mansion inherited by Catholic bishops and use the proceeds for his living expenses.

The mansion was willed to the state's Catholic bishops in 1947 by former Mayor George Trudel, with the provision that it always be used as a private home for bishops.

Trudel's family members and a Catholic activist have gone to court, arguing McCormack is dismissing Trudel's wishes because the Diocese of Manchester lost millions of dollars from the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

McCormack came under fire as a former top aide to Cardinal Bernard Law, and was accused of shuffling abusive priests between parishes while serving in Boston.

The real estate case is set for a preliminary conference this month.

The diocese maintains it is honoring Trudel's intent with a request to sell the property for living expenses. The church reads the will as saying Trudel intended to "support" the bishop, and argues using proceeds from selling the home complies with that intent.

The court challenge was filed on behalf of Candice Coll, one of Trudel's heirs. She argues the church is just trying to get money to offset millions of dollars it has had to pay to settle priest abuse claims.

Carolyn Disco of Merrimack, a Catholic activist, also is challenging the request.

"Relief (from provisions of the will) is not a backup plan for the financial effects of failure to exercise due diligence and moral leadership in the conduct of one's office," she wrote.

The diocese also argues the cost of maintaining and operating the home has skyrocketed, making it impractical as a bishop's home.


Church Official Won’t Meet with Reformers

Manchester (NH) Union Leader
September 18, 2003

The chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester will not meet with a Nashua lay reform group later this month because of its involvement in a “solidarity march” calling on Bishop John B. McCormack and Auxiliary Bishop Francis Christian to resign.

The march on St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester is planned for Sunday.

George Thompson, chairman of the Nashua chapter of Voice of the Faithful, said the Rev. Edward J. Arsenault knew VOTF supported the bishops’ resignations when he began planning to meet with the group in July.

“We do respect that Father Arsenault disagrees with our position, but faced with the option of turning our backs on survivors, we cannot in good conscience, succumb to pressure not to participate in (the) Solidarity March,” Thompson wrote in a statement.

The focus of the march is to publicly call for the resignations of McCormack and Christian, according to online postings.

Diocesan spokesman Pat McGee said when Arsenault learned the march “is a single-purpose event with the sole goal of forcing the resignations” of the bishops, “he didn’t see what could be gained from a meeting that would be focused on the resignation issue.”

“It wouldn’t be a productive dialogue,” McGee said.


Heirs Try to Block Bishop Home Sale

Manchester (NH) Union Leader
September 19, 2003

Several people have filed objections to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester’s court petition to sell the bishop’s mansion.

Former Manchester Mayor George E. Trudel, who died in 1947, willed his 657 North River Road mansion to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Manchester on condition it forever remain the bishop’s residence.

Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack in June said he intends to move to St. Joseph Cathedral rectory in Manchester, provided the diocese gets court approval to sell the stately home.

The diocese filed a petition in Hillsborough County Probate Court that would allow it to find an alternative use for the property — including selling it — and using the proceeds to support the housing and living expenses of the person who holds the office of Bishop of Manchester.

The diocese is seeking the change as a cost-cutting measure, saying the expense of maintaining the home is “impracticable and obsolete” given the acute financial demands facing the diocese.

The house sits on a half-acre in one of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods and has a total assessed value of $633,300. Local Realtors have estimated its market value between $750,000 and $1 million.

On behalf of one of Trudel’s heirs, Candice Coll, Exeter attorney Daniel P. Schwarz filed an objection to the diocese’s petition, saying it was Trudel’s intent that the home forever remain the bishop’s house and not be used to finance other obligations.

Coll is an heir of Arthur G. Archambeault, one of several people Trudel listed as beneficiaries to the “rest, residue and remainder” of his estate.

Manchester attorney Donald A. Kennedy also filed an objection to the diocese’s petition of behalf of Rolande Sharron, George Bourcier and Denyse Bourcier. They are the grandchildren of Charles Trudel, George Trudel’s surviving brother.

“This was a very proud man who wanted the bishop to live in his house and, if he wasn’t going to live in his house, it was going to revert back to the heirs,” Kennedy said.

Lawyers who specialize in estate and trust law have said petitions seeking to deviate from the terms of a bequest generally propose doing something as analogous as possible to the intended use of the property.

But they said the court might examine whether any individuals or charities have a right to the “rest, residue and remainder” of his estate.

The diocese estimated it would save about $50,000 a year if the bishop were allowed to move to the cathedral rectory, part of an annual $500,000 savings in operating costs it announced in March.

A diocese said none of the money it would gain from the proposed sale of the residence would go into the settlement of civil suits or other costs related to the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

A.D. Archambault of New Gloucester, Maine, and Inez L. Eley of Argos, Ind., also have filed appearances with the court as heirs.

In addition, a Catholic activist filed a response to the diocese’s petition.

Carolyn Disco of Merrimack, who is not an heir, said she wants to see the property revert to Trudel’s heirs and beneficiaries. She claims in her filing that the diocese is responsible for its financial woes because of the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

If the six heirs are successful, Disco said in a statement that she will ask them to donate a portion of their proceeds to help clergy sexual abuse victims.

Kennedy said Disco has been in contact with him.

“We are not going to comment on that. Our pleadings speak for themselves,” Kennedy said.


McCormack Delegate, Voice of Faithful Group Clash

By Associated Press
September 18, 2003

Nashua, NH -- Bishop John McCormack's delegate on clergy abuse victims clashed with Voice of the Faithful members on a planned meeting when he heard about a victims' survivor march calling for McCormack's resignation.

The meeting had been arranged weeks ago between Nashua Voice of the Faithful members and the Rev. Edward Arsenault.

Arsenault said he couldn't meet with the group if it promoted the march for sexual abuse victims, scheduled for Sunday outside of St. Joseph's Cathedral.

"As for solidarity with survivors, may I suggest that you and those with whom you meet consider a more constructive approach to (assist survivors) than with a 90-minute presence outside a church full of faithful Catholics?" Arsenault wrote Monday to Marge Thompson, a member of the Nashua Voice of the Faithful.

Voice of the Faithful was not listed on news releases as a sponsor of the march, but the group alerted members so they could decide whether to attend, the Concord Monitor reported Thursday.

But George Thompson, Marge's husband and the chairman of the Nashua lay group, said the couple were so offended by Arsenault's response that they called off the group's get-together with Arsenault, which was set for next Thursday.

"To comply with your requirement (not to promote Sunday's march) would force us to disassociate ourselves with the survivors," George Thompson wrote to Arsensault this week. "And we will not do that."

Pat McGee, diocesan spokesman, said the diocese "stands in solidarity with victims, and I think we've shown our commitment with our support groups, meetings with victims and our response to lawsuits.

"But when we are aware that (Voice of the Faithful) is promoting an event whose single purpose is calling for resignations, we didn't see what would be gained by meeting with them."

The march, according to a news release, is being sponsored by several of groups, such as Speak Truth To Power!, Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests and Catholics for Moral Leadership.


New Hampshire Catholics Demand Bishops' Resignation
[Correction Appended]

By KATE McCANN
Associated Press

Manchester, NH -- More than 100 protesters outside St. Joseph's Cathedral on Sunday called on fellow Roman Catholics to oust two New Hampshire bishops for their roles in the priest sex scandal.

Victims of pedophile priests and groups seeking change within the church rallied outside Bishop John McCormack's parish church for two hours before and during a morning Mass.

Jim Sacco, 48, of Amherst, who received a cash settlement from the church for his abuse claims against convicted former priest John Geoghan, called clergy sexual abuse "domestic terrorism against children." Geoghan was killed by another inmate in a Massachusetts prison last month.

"I am a victim of John Geoghan. I am also a victim of his supervisors, the bishops and cardinals, the Vatican, and every man and woman who conspired to cover up sexual abuse against children," Sacco said.

McCormack has been accused in civil lawsuits of helping move abusive priests from parish to parish while serving as a top aide to Cardinal Bernard Law in the Archdiocese of Boston. Law stepped down last December, amid similar accusations.

Auxiliary Bishop Francis Christian has been accused of lying about previous sexual misconduct by the Rev. Roger Fortier to corrections officials conducting a presentencing investigation after Fortier was convicted.

While the groups have held protests outside St. Joseph's before, this was the largest to date, drawing victims from as far away as Kentucky and Colorado.

The protesters have said they will continue their efforts until McCormack and Christian resign. Both bishops have said they have no intention of resigning.

McCormack was out of the state Sunday, but a spokesman for the Diocese of Manchester watched the protest from the nearby church garden.

"Bishop McCormack has worked personally with victims and we have resolved over 200 requests for settlements with victims," Patrick McGee said.

At least one parishioner said there is a better way to deal with McCormack.

"The first thing they have to do is forgive him. Then they have to start praying the rosary," said Jim McGowan, 60. "He's a constant reminder that even the high and mighty can fall."

CORRECTION
September 25, 2003

In a Sept. 21 story about protesters calling for the ouster of two Roman Catholic bishops, The Associated Press misidentified one of the demonstrators. John Sacco of Saugus, Mass., not his brother Jim Sacco, called clergy sexual abuse "domestic terrorism against children."

It also was John Sacco who said: "I am a victim of John Geoghan. I am also a victim of his supervisors, the bishops and cardinals, the Vatican, and every man and woman who conspired to cover up sexual abuse against children


Priest’s Frankness, Courage Praised

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
September 25, 2003

Parishioners of a Durham church said their pastor’s frank acknowledgment last Sunday of the suffering the clergy sexual abuse crisis has caused Roman Catholics cracked the silence that has greeted them from the pulpit on this issue.

“It felt wonderful. Everybody at the church was just elated that it was like they were finally talking to us like adults and really acknowledging what we all know,” Lorraine Graham of St. Thomas More parish said yesterday.

Graham and several other parishioners said the Rev. Daniel A. St. Laurent recounted a recent conversation he had with Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack about his concerns over the bishop’s continued leadership and directly addressed the pain the crisis has caused victims and Catholics in general.

St. Laurent yesterday would not comment on his homily.

“I would rather not play this out in the press,” he said.

According to several parishioners, St. Laurent told them about the meeting he had with McCormack when the two met several weeks ago.

“Basically, he asked the bishop, ‘When did the church approve of this kind of behavior on the part of priests?’” said Anthony R. Tagliaferro, 57, of Durham, a 25-year parishioner who attended the 9 a.m. Mass.

“And the bishop said, ‘It’s never been approved.’ And (St. Laurent) said, ‘Yes, it has. By being silent, the church has approved it.’ That’s when it really hit home that he was definitely feeling what we were feeling,” added Tagliaferro, a professor of nutrition at the University of New Hampshire.

St. Laurent told the congregation that since he has no children of his own, he “can only imagine and couldn’t possibly fathom the depth of the pain that the parents of the abused feel, never mind the great pain of the victims,” said parishioner John Nolan, 30, of Durham.

According to several parishioners, St. Laurent said the bishop expressed his hope that that parents and victims might find forgiveness.

“I think what Dan was trying to say to (the bishop) is he is not listening. He is not hearing what is really going on in terms of the diocese as a whole. That people are very unhappy with the bishop in his present position,” Tagliaferro said.

“I don’t think he said you should consider stepping down. I think what he did do was tell the bishop his effectiveness as a leader has been compromised and as long as he stays in the position he is in, he is going to continue to drive a wedge in the church,” Tagliaferro added.

St. Laurent’s homily drew a standing ovation at the 9 a.m. Mass and applause at the 11:15 a.m. service.

“It was like someone removed the lid on a rather emotional can. It was just so spontaneous, it was impressive,” Tagliaferro said of the reaction.

Nolan called it courageous and likened it to a “breath of fresh air.”

“It was completely refreshing,” he said.

For Graham, it was long overdue.

“Catholics are hurting, and we get no leadership from the bishop,” she added. “It’s been a very strained year and Sunday after Sunday, not a word is being said. But you pick up every newspaper and that’s all you read about. Yet there is a deafening silence from the pulpit.”

Parishioners, she said, “appreciated that finally someone who is a priest is addressing this issue and we were delighted. I think the rest of the priests in the state should be doing so also.”

St. Laurent, who was ordained in 1971, is a popular and respected pastor who left the parish about three years ago to do missionary work in Honduras, parishioners said. He returned to the parish early this summer.

Tagliaferro said the pastor also told parishioners that at least they can be a model for others even if the bishop chooses not to resign.

“We are here to heal each other and we are here for each other. As long as we can take care of each other . . . we are still a community and we need to stay intact and help each other,” he explained.


Bishop Home Sale Strikes a Nerve

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
September 29, 2003

Former Manchester mayor George E. Trudel built his North River Road mansion in the 1920s as a Taj Mahal of sorts for his wife, Theodora.

He called it Beausejour, a beautiful retreat for the childless couple which, when he died, he gave to his equally beloved Roman Catholic church to forever remain the bishop's home.

Those who knew Trudel, who died June 2, 1947, say the diocese's desire to sell the mansion does more than crush Trudel's dream.

It would undermine the efforts of generations of Catholics whose sweat helped pay for the upkeep of the mansion since Bishop Matthew F. Brady first lived there. It also tampers with an important part of Manchester and church history, they added.

"It's very disappointing that one of the best supporters of the church in his lifetime, that he would give this beautiful property to the church, and now they are going to find excuses (to sell it)," said Frank Binette, 86, of Laconia, who befriended Trudel during the last 10 years of Trudel's life.

"I realize they are obligated to pay off in all the court decisions and everything, but I don't think the people, the Catholics of New Hampshire, appreciate the fact that they are going to dispose of this property," he added.

"If it came down to the wire, I think some people would donate freely just to hold on to that property," he added.

The home, built by Anatole Caron in the late 1920s to Trudel's specifications, is a landmark and important piece of city history, according to Binette and Caron's daughter, Rita Caron Vezina.

Vezina, 81, of Manchester remembers when Trudel hired her father to build the home and the frequent trips he made to their house to discuss his plans.

"It was very, very important (to Trudel)," she said of the attention the former mayor poured in the house he had built for his wife at 657 North River Road.

"It was a beautiful home," said Vezina, who has fond childhood memories of its grandeur, solid oak floors and warmth of its fireplace.

She says Trudel's wishes should be honored.

A devout Roman Catholic whose hard work and successful plumbing business made him one of the richest men in New Hampshire, Trudel willed his home to the bishop of Manchester.

His only proviso was that it "be forever used as the private residence of the person who is the bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Manchester," according to his will drafted Jan. 3, 1947.

"It was left to all the bishops who come to New Hampshire," she said. "There is a big history to it because of being left to all the bishops of New Hampshire . . . This should not be sold to make money." 'Excessive, impracticable'

Last spring, Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack announced he intended to move from the spacious home to St. Joseph Cathedral rectory.

Saying the increasing cost of maintaining the home for one person has become "excessive and impracticable" given the church's current financial woes, the diocese last June petitioned Hillsborough County Probate Court to lift the restriction that the bishop live there.

If approved by the court, the diocese would use the money from the sale of the property to "support the housing and living expenses of the person who holds the office of bishop" of Manchester, its petition states.

The move not only disturbs those who say Trudel's wishes are being meddled with, but also triggered a legal battle among heirs who claim the property is theirs if the bishop moves out.

The grandchildren of Trudel's long-time business partner, the daughter of Trudel's bookkeeper and three grandchildren of Trudel's brother, Charles, are among those who filed objections to the diocese's petition.

It falls to Probate Judge Richard Cloutier to sort matters out starting tomorrow at a structuring conference in Hillsborough County Probate Court in Manchester.

Trudel's will has a reverter clause that gives one third of the "rest, residue and remainder" of his estate to his long-time business partner, Arthur G. Archambault, and his heirs.

The remaining two thirds were to be divided among Corinne C. Dubois, and Ella Provencher and Germaine S. Grenier and their heirs.

Four of Archambault's grandchildren-- Candice Coll and her cousins, A.D. Archambault, Duane Archambault and Suzette Archambault -- have filed objections to the diocese's petition. They argue the house is not a charitable property and, if the bishop no longer lives there, it reverts back to his estate.

Exeter attorney Daniel Schwarz said more is at stake than getting what is rightfully theirs.

"It would be cavalier to say they are not interested in the money. Of course, they are interested in the money. But they are also not thrilled by the way the church is acting about this. They think if the church wants to sell it and given them the money, that would be fine," said Schwarz, who represents Coll of Manchester.

The dispute the house is a charitable property, "It's clearly a case of give onto Caesar what is Caesar's," said A.D. Archambault of New Gloucester, Maine. He and his siblings are representing themselves.

Archambault said it became part of family lore that "if the bishop had not taken (the house), I think my grandfather was confident that he would have had the option of living there." A matter of ethics

Like other heirs, Duane Archambault of Manchester said he learned of the diocese's petition through the newspapers and, later, when contacted by lawyers.

While the diocese stressed none of the money would be used to settle civil suits or other costs related to the clergy sexual abuse crisis, Archambault and several others don't see it this way.

"No matter what they say, the bottom line is that some funds would be diverted back that way if that could happen," he said.

Duane Archambault said he would like to Trudel's wishes honored and the house remain the bishop's home.

"It's just a matter of ethics," he said.

One Archambault heir who has not filed an appearance in court also says Trudel's intentions should be upheld.

"This has been a part of Manchester history and it's always been the bishop's home and I just don't understand why they have to change that right now," Dr. Michael Murphy of Manchester said.

"I've heard said it's too big a residence for one person. Then, fine, have more than one person live there," added Murphy, who said he hasn't filed an appearance because "I don't want to come across that I am also looking for my piece of the pie."

Murphy said he doesn't think sale of the property would solve the diocese's financial problems.

"I think it's a very short-term solution for a much bigger problem," he said.

The house, located in one of the city's wealthiest neighborhoods, has an assessed value of $633,000. Local Realtors have said its market value could range from $750,000 and $1 million, depending on its condition.

The diocese has estimated it would save about $50,000 a year if McCormack were allowed to move to the cathedral.

Manchester attorney Donald A. Kennedy is representing Rolande Sharron, Denyse Bourcier and George Bourcier, the grandchildren of Trudel's brother, Charles.

Inez L. Eley of Argos, Ind., the daughter of Trudel's bookkeeper, Corrine Dubois, said she was inundated with newsclippings and packets of information from attorneys and other interested parties since the diocese filed its petition.

Although she said "it's not great big deal to me," she filed an objection anyway.

"If it turned out that the heirs got money from this, naturally I'm here to take it. But, like I say, it's not anything crucial to me," she said. Will contested before

This isn't the first time Trudel's will has been a subject of contention.

His brother, Charles, and Charles' daughters, Georgette Leveille and Francoise Bourcier, contested the will shortly after Trudel's death.

They appealed the will Trudel wrote five months before his death in which Trudel not only left his home to the bishop, but all 850 shares in George E. Trudel Co. to Arthur G. Archambault, his business partner, long-time friend and executor of his will, probate records show. The stock's appraised value in 1950 was $191,250, records show.

In their appeals, Charles Trudel and his daughters allude to earlier wills and claim the former mayor was prey to "undue influence, overpersuasion and artful misrepresentations of certain persons" when he drafted his last will, wrote probate documents reveal.

They also claim Trudel was of "unsound mind" at the time and the document shouldn't be allowed as his last will and testament.

An agreement reached March 6, 1950, upheld the will and the $15,000 trust George Trudel set up for Charles.

Controversy loomed again in 1996 when Manchester attorney Charles E. Chretien, who as administrator of the Arthur Archambault revocable trust, pleaded guilty to stealing $8,000 from the trust and $16,000 from another estate.

Chretien, now 72, was disbarred, given a suspended sentence and ordered to pay back the total $24,000.

Behind in his payments and owing $25,800 last September, Chretien continues to make $25 monthly payments, court records show.

A.D. Archambault said he and his two siblings have received less than $200 so far in restitution from Chretien.



 
 

Bishop Accountability © 2003
     
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