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Westfield Priest Charged with Rape, Sexual Assault

By Jean Caldwell
Boston Globe
April 25, 1992

SPRINGFIELD - 37-year-old Roman Catholic priest was indicted yesterday by a Hampden County grand jury on charges of raping and sexually assaulting a woman connected to his church.

District Attorney William Bennett said Rev. Gary LaMontagne will be arraigned in early May on charges of indecent assault and battery, rape, and assault with intent to rape.

Bennett said the indecent assault and battery charges stem from incidents in September and November 1990 at the rectory of St. Mary's Church in Westfield. According to Bennett, Father LaMontagne, who served as assistant pastor of the church, allegedly touched the woman on her buttocks, thigh and breasts.

The rape charges stem from an incident on Feb. 18, 1992, at the rectory, according to Bennett. Father LaMontagne allegedly "digitally raped" the woman "and then attempted to have sexual intercourse with her."

The indictment marks the second time this year that a priest in western Massachusetts has been charged with sexual assault. In February, a Franklin County grand jury handed up indictments charging Rev. Richard R. LaVigne with molesting five children. Father LaVigne has been relieved of his church duties as pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Shelburne Falls pending his trial.

At a news conference yesterday called after the announcement of the indictments against Father LaMontagne, Bishop John Marshall of the Diocese of Springfield said that he would probably place the priest on administrative leave because "our people have the right to worship God without distraction."

But Bishop Marshall said he would not act before talking to the priest because "I am not going to be judge and jury without giving Father LaMontagne any opportunity to defend himself."

Bishop Marshall said that he had been unaware of the investigation, which was conducted by the Westfield Police Department.

But Westfield police Detective Sgt. Brian Boldini said other church officials, including Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Dupre and Rev. Anthony Creane, St. Mary's pastor, were aware of the investigation.

Boldini said the reaction of the diocese was to "whisk him out of the parish. As soon as they were aware, they packed his bags."

Father LaMontagne was transferred to Holy Family Church in Holyoke last month, a move Bishop Marshall described as routine and not connected to the investigation.

Michael Graziano, director of communications for the diocese, said he had no knowledge of a meeting between the alleged victim and Bishop Dupre. However, he speculated that if someone approached a priest or bishop it would have been in confidence and "that kind of thing cannot be made public."

Bishop Dupre could not be reached for comment last night.

A woman who answered the phone at St. Mary's rectory said priests there were not taking calls from reporters and had no comment. Priests at Holy Family were out, according to the answering service.

Boldini said the alleged victim came to poice March 23 after meeting with Auxiliary Bishop Dupre and "not being satisfied with what she thought they were going to do."

Boldini said the woman, "like a lot of victims, was very reluctant to come forward."

The alleged victim said Father LaMontagne told her that nobody would believe her story, according to Boldini.

Bishop Marshall said he hoped the matter would be resolved swiftly by the courts. He urged "everyone to refrain from making judgments until our judicial system has concluded its review of these very serious allegations."

Referring to the accusations against the two priests, Bishop Marshall said, "I have no explanation for either case. I would not expect anything of this kind."

Rev. William Pomerleau, a reporter for The Catholic Observer, the official paper of the diocese, said Father LaMontagne is a native of Greenfield who was ordained in 1981. He served at Our Lady of Hope in Springfield and Blessed Sacrament in Holyoke before going to St. Mary's in Westfield as associate pastor.

[Transcribed on 5/23/05 by BishopAccountability.org from a newspaper clipping provided by a survivor.]

 
 

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