Detail How Complaints Were Handled
By J. M. Hirsch
[See the Report on the Investigation of the Diocese of Manchester, by Peter W. Heed, N. William Delker, and James D. Rosenberg (3/3/03), with its 9,000-page investigative archive.]
Concord, NH - With 9,000 pages of church documents and a report, the state attorney general's office on Monday laid out how New Hampshire's Roman Catholic hierarchy mishandled sex abuse accusations for decades.
The 154-page report details evidence prosecutors would have used in seeking criminal charges against the Diocese of Manchester, charges averted in December by a settlement. Prosecutors acknowledged that the diocese addressed some molestation complaints with steps including getting counseling for the priest.
But, prosecutors said, "The state was prepared to prove that the steps taken by the diocese were so ineffective that they did not negate the fact that the diocese 'knowingly' endangered the the welfare of a minor."
As planned, the diocese released its own report Monday apologizing for how it handled allegations in the past and contrasting that with how they are dealt with now.
"Child sexual abuse is a terrible crime in the church and in society," Bishop John B. McCormack said in an introductory letter. "Child sexual abuse is an affront to the dignity of the person, and it violates every principle of profound respect for human life that the gospel entails."
He praised victims for their courage in coming forward and apologized for the harm done to them.
In the unprecedented settlement, the diocese agreed its conduct had harmed children and that it probably would have been convicted of child endangerment, a misdemeanor, but for the settlement.
In its report Monday, however, the diocese said it doesn't "necessarily agree with all aspects of (the state's) final analysis." It said it could have mounted a vigorous defense, but doing so would not have helped victims.
The church report detailed lessons learned by the diocese during the past year. They include the need to pay more attention to victims, involving civil authorities in investigations and having more than one person handle allegations.
Thousands of pages of church documents have been released in Massachusetts during the past year by lawyers for victims and alleged victims suing the church. And three weeks ago, a grand jury in New York issued a scathing report accusing the Diocese of Rockville Centre of sheltering molesters and failing to protect children.
The New Hampshire documents and reports may provide an even more comprehensive look at the inner workings of a diocese than those in Boston or Rockville Centre, however.
McCormack is named in the New Hampshire documents and state report, but prosecutors focused on incidents before he became bishop of Manchester in 1998.
The state's report was to focus on eight clergymen, The Associated Press learned. Officials have said the eight were not selected because of the seriousness of the allegations against them, but because their cases contained strong evidence the diocese had mishandled the molestation complaints.
Two of the eight priests focused on in the state report are in prison for criminal sexual assault convictions. A source speaking on condition of anonymity identified them as the Rev. Gordon MacRae, convicted of molesting four boys during the 1980s, and the Rev. Roger Fortier, convicted of assaulting two Farmington boys during the 1990s.
The six other priests profiled in the state report have been accused of abuse in civil lawsuits.
The source identified them as:
- The Rev. Paul Aube, who has acknowledged molesting several minors during the 1970s.
- The Rev. Albert Boulanger, accused of abuse in Concord, Berlin and Ashland between 1960 and 1980.
- The Rev. Gerald Chalifour, accused of abuse in Allenstown and Farmington during the 1960s and 1970s.
- The Rev. Robert J. Densmore, accused of molesting three New London minors during the 1970s.
- The Rev. Raymond H. Laferriere, accused of abuse in Hudson and Manchester during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
- Leo Landry, a former priest accused of abuse in Berlin, Manchester and Somersworth during the 1960s and 1970s.
Five of the eight - all but MacRae, Fortier and Landry - were identified by the diocese in February 2002 as being the subject of credible allegations of sexual misconduct in the past.
Aube became a key of the state investigation when he told prosecutors last year that church officials insisted he continue working with children even after he admitted sexual misconduct with minors and asked for help. The diocese has not commented on Aube's claims.
Boulanger, Chalifour, Densmore and Laferriere are retired. None has a listed telephone and they could not be reached for comment. The diocese would not release contact information on the priests.
Fortier was convicted in 1998 of assaulting two minors during the 1990s. He later pleaded guilty to trying to assault another minor. He is serving 20 to 40 years in prison. Calls to his lawyer were not immediately returned.
Landry left the priesthood in 1972 to marry. He has been accused of abusing nine minors. Landry's telephone was out of service. In April 2002, he denied the first allegation against him.
In an interview in prison last week, MacRae maintained his innocence, saying the boys lied. He has sought help from the diocese to prove his innocence.
One priest named in the documents obtained a court order Monday barring
their release. Will Delker, a senior assistant attorney general, said
the development affected only a small portion of the documents.
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