Report: Church Didn’t Prevent Abuse
State claims leaders looked the other way

By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
March 4, 2003

[See also articles on individual priests Paul Aube, Albert Boulanger, Gerald Chalifour, Roland Cote, Robert Densmore, Roger Fortier, Raymond H. Laferriere, Leo Landry, Gordon MacRae, and Donald M. Osgood; see also an article on the response of the diocese.

See also the 12/10/02 Agreement that led to the 3/3/03 Attorney General’s Report with its 9,000-page document archive. The report is also available in easy-to-download sections: 1. Table of Contents, 2. Overview and Legal Analysis, Essays on selected priests: 3. Aube, 4. Boulanger, 5. Chalifour, 6. Densmore, 7. Fortier, 8. Laferriere, 9. Landry, 10. MacRae. See also our hypertext version of the MacRae chapter, with links to over 100 documents. See also the diocese's response, Restoring Trust.]

Concord -- Dozens of New Hampshire children could have been spared sexual assaults by Roman Catholic priests had church leaders acted appropriately when they first learned of a priest's sexual misconduct, a state report released yesterday concluded.

The report cites instances where priests admitted to their superiors that they sexually abused minors, only to be quietly reassigned to other parishes or ministry where they were accused of abusing other youths, according to the state's 154-page report of its criminal probe of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester. In some cases, the priests admitted to the subsequent allegations.

"Many, many of the victims said they had no idea the priest posed a danger to them," said Senior Assistant Attorney General N. William Delker, who led the attorney general's investigation.

"The parents had no reason to suspect and just let their children go with these priests even though they were known problems. If they had been warned or put on notice, most likely they would have acted with caution and they could have been spared serious harm," he added.

The state released its report and investigative files totaling 9,000 pages yesterday as part of the Dec. 10 agreement it struck with the diocese.

The files include thousands of pages of church documents obtained through a grand jury subpoena that formed the basis of the state's case to seek multiple indictments against the diocese on Dec. 13.
The agreement ended the criminal investigation and included the diocese's acknowledgment that the state had enough evidence to sustain a conviction under the child endangerment statute.

While Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack yesterday said details of the church's past mishandling of abusive priests are painful, it is important they be aired for healing to occur.

"The harm done by priests to children and young people is harmful, inexcusable, criminal and sinful," McCormack said in a telephone interview.

"We acknowledged what we did and failed to do. That's a real good that came from this and from this retrospective we've learned things," he added.

The church now has policies and staff in place to protect children from abuse and effectively respond to allegations that may occur, he said.

The bishop said he intends to continue to serve as bishop, saying "the best part of being in the office is to be here both in good times and in bad times and that's what I will do."

The state said it was prepared to argue the diocese sometimes was "willfully blind" to the dangers abusive priests posed to children. Even in cases where a priest admitted his abuse to a bishop, the bishop did nothing to restrict or monitor the priest's future activity, the state said.

The diocese showed "flagrant indifference" to its obligation to protect children by following a "conscious course of deliberate ignorance," the state's report said.

The investigative files include records of 35 Manchester diocesan priests, five religious brothers and 19 priests from the Archdiocese of Boston.

The 35 Manchester diocesan priests face abuse allegations from more than 100 minors, Delker said.
The Boston archdiocesan priests include the Rev. Paul Shanley, who was criminally charged with child rape last May, and several others accused in civil suits.

Lacking resources to thoroughly investigate sexual abuse allegations against all 59 clerics, the Attorney General's Office formed a task force of state, county and local investigators that focused on eight Manchester diocesan clerics accused of abusing 70 to 80 minors.

The investigation confirmed church leaders knew these eight priests sexually abused minors but either kept them in ministry or took inadequate action and the priests abused children again, the state's report said.

The state intended to bring multiple child endangerment charges against the diocese for its handling of three of the eight priests. They are the Revs. Paul L. Aube, Gerald F. Chalifour and Roger A. Fortier.

Criminal charges could not be brought against the diocese for its handling of the five other priests because the state lacked sufficient evidence or the statute of limitations had expired, the state said.
The five other priests are: the Revs. Albert J. Boulanger, Robert J. Densmore, Leo P. Landry, Raymond H. Laferriere and Gordon J. MacRae.

The state granted Chalifour, Aube and Landry limited immunity in exchange for their cooperation. This does not bar them from future prosecution.

While state prosecutors said church leaders mishandled abusive priests, neither they nor diocesan officials said any individual bishop or diocesan official intended to endanger a minor.

"What they intended was to protect the reputation of the diocese and of the priest and to avoid scandal. In doing that, they elevated the interests of the church above those of the parishioners and the children," Delker said.

Release of the documents was delayed one hour after the attorney for the Rev. Roland Cote sought a temporary restraining order to remove the priest's records from the files, saying Cote was not charged with criminal conduct. Cote's file was removed from the documents until a judge rules on his request.



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