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  Victim of Sex Abuse by Rev. Talbot Talks of Guilt, Fear, Pain

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
November 18, 2002

Former Keene resident Dennis Horion told no one about the sordid car trips he said the Rev. Francis A. Talbot took him on as a child.

Horion said Talbot routinely picked him up at his grandmother's Manchester house in his sleek sedan to get ice cream, go bowling or visit relatives. Horion said all were innocent pursuits -- and all tainted when Talbot reached across the front seat and put his hand inside Horion's pants.

"I felt the same way every time he did it. 'What do you want down there?' My parents don't even do that," Horion, 50, recounted.

"I knew nothing of sex. When I saw my picture, I was shocked at how fresh faced I was at that age. I had no chance against this guy," added Horion, who said Talbot abused him from approximately 1959 to 1964 when he was about 7 to 12 years old.

Talbot, now 66, is Horion's second cousin, the family priest whose first name Horion took for confirmation.
But he was even more than that, Horion explained, describing the exalted status a cleric held in the strict French Catholic world in which he was raised.

"God was a priest. And a priest was God," explained Horion, whose family lived in Hooksett before moving to Keene. Horion has been living in Atlanta, Ga., for the past 17 years.

"If a priest was untoward toward you, you would have to defend yourself against God as a 7-year-old," he added.
Horion told no one about the alleged abuses until he was 19, when he said he confided in his older sister.

"If I told my dad, he would have shot Francis Talbot. That is the entire reason I kept quiet -- I didn't want to lose a father and a mentor," said Horion, who is self-employed as a custom designer of men's clothes.

Horion said the alleged abuse escalated to attempted anal rape during a sleepover at Talbot's mother's house in Manchester when he was about 11 years old.

Horion said Talbot came into his bedroom during the night and sat down beside him. He said he smelled alcohol on Talbot's breath.

"I'm cold. . .Can I come in and get warm with you?" Horion recounted Talbot asking.

"What do you say to a priest?" Horion asked. "I didn't have any concept of what he was doing. He rolled me over. . .laid down on top of me and tried to rape me."

Horion said his cries and screams frightened Talbot, who left the room angry.

Horion said he was in about eighth grade when Talbot took him fishing at Lake Massabesic and allegedly molested him for the last time. Talbot was more aggressive than ever before, "essentially attacking me," Horion said, adding he fought the priest off.

"I told him I want to go home. I think he figured out he had popped the edge of the envelope. He knew he was right on the verge of me telling my father," Horion said.

Horion said he didn't see his second cousin again until his junior year at St. Anselm College in the early 1970s. Horion took a part-time job at the state's youth detention facility in Manchester, known then as the New Hampshire Industrial School, when he ran into Talbot, who worked there as a part-time chaplain from 1968 to 1988.

Horion, who said by then he had become a "wild buck" who had difficulty fitting in with his family and meeting their expectations, locked eyes with Talbot in an angry stare.

"When he saw me, he ran like a rabbit," Horion said.

Horion said his sin was not speaking up then.

"That would have been the brave thing. What I'm doing now is attempting to reconcile my culpability," Horion said of his decision to break with the anonymity offered him as one of 65 men and women who joined a potential class action suit filed against the Manchester diocese.

Had he had the courage and strength of character to do something at that time, Horion believes he could have prevented Talbot from allegedly abusing a Manchester youth from about 1989 to 1996.

Cody Goodwin, 22, claims in a civil suit that Talbot sexually assaulted him from the age of 9 until he turned 16 and was strong enough to fight the cleric off.

Goodwin alleges Talbot abused him virtually every Monday when Goodwin worked at the priest's home in Manchester.

"I just don't want to talk to anybody right now," Talbot said recently when reached at his Manchester home by telephone.

"I am so broken hearted about all of this," he added.

Talbot, who was ordained in the early 1960s, was on the list of 14 priests accused of past sexual misconduct with children released by Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack last February. His ministry was suspended in 2000 when the diocese received a child sexual abuse allegation against him, church officials have said.

The priest has been accused in two civil suits filed this year of abusing an unidentified Concord man and Robert Plourde of Manchester. Both men claim Talbot molested them at the former New Hampshire Industrial School in the 1960s.

Another of Talbot's alleged victims was part of a nearly $1 million settlement the Manchester diocese reached with 16 people last month. McCormack mailed letters of apology to the alleged victims involved in that settlement.

Talbot also served as Catholic chaplain at the New Hampshire State Prison in Concord. The prison's 1976-78 biennial report said he was chaplain there for the previous 10 years.

He was stationed at St. Patrick Parish in Manchester, one parishioner said. A 1990 Union Leader report on Manchester Bishop Odore J. Gendron's retirement mentions Talbot as a long-time friend of Gendron's who recently appointed Talbot to serve at Catholic Medical Center.

Horion, now one of 65 men and women whose cases are the subject of ongoing settlement talks with Manchester diocesan attorneys, said no dollar amount will recover what he has lost.

And no price tag can be placed on what he wants.

"I would like to see the church come back to what it was when I was a youth -- a leader in the community and. . . able to take the moral high ground and be looked at with trust and not derision," he explained.
"McCormack will never be able to lead anybody on the moral high ground. Until the church can find the moral high ground again, they're incapable of providing leadership," he added.

As attorneys talk settlements, Horion fears the voices of the abused -- and their power to effect real change -- may be lost in the clamor over money.

"The settlements are not addressing the real issues at the table," he explained.

"The fear that I have in this is that the victims right now are being asked to settle in a vacuum without actually taking a look at the power we have," Horion added.

"We have not collectively asked the church (for reform) because our attorneys, this is not their agenda," he said.

Manchester attorney Peter E. Hutchins, who represents Horion and the more than 60 other unidentified alleged victims in settlement talks that began Oct. 22, said he is not seeking reforms as conditions in the negotiations. But he said his clients' decisions to come forward is a powerful impetus for change in itself.

"They believe by coming forward in the manner in which they have, in bringing this issue to light, they are helping as part of the process to quite naturally effect some reforms," Hutchins said.

"But, beyond that, it's not really my function. My job is to represent my clients and to help them as best as I can, part of that being a financial compensation, but certainly a heck of a lot more has been helping them through the last six to eight months," Hutchins added.

Horion wants abusive priests removed from the priesthood, not just from ministry.

He wants McCormack to resign as bishop and the diocese forced to pay damages alleged victims incurred by abusive priests while he said church leaders looked the other way for decades.

He also wants the Manchester diocese to provide full disclosure of its finances, including the amount it has spent on attorneys to fight alleged victims' claims. He would like the diocese to set aside the same amount it spent on legal fees in a fund to pay for mental and physical assistance to alleged victims.

It particularly pains Horion that many parishioners still regard alleged victims as either greedy or emotionally weak and unable to get over something that happened decades ago.

"I ask the parishioners to not see us as the enemy, taking money from the parishes. . .but welcome us as the prodigal son," Horion said.

He speaks of a "conspiracy of silence" that enabled priests to abuse children. This conspiracy extended from the highest reaches of the diocese to those parents and parishioners in the pews who said nothing, yet refused to let their children alone with suspect priests, he says.

"They wouldn't have done anything so they wouldn't have to accept responsibility for putting you in the position of having been abused," he said.


 
 

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