Report: Church Didn’t Prevent
State claims leaders looked the other way
By Kathryn Marchocki
Manchester (NH) Union Leader
March 4, 2003
[See also articles on individual priests Paul
H. Laferriere, Leo
MacRae, and Donald
M. Osgood; see also an article on the response of the
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,
See also our hypertext
version of the MacRae chapter, with links to over 100 documents. See
also the diocese's response, Restoring
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
"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
"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,"
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,"
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