|Files Reveal a Lesser-Known,
Sordid Side of Boisselle
Several men accused priest of abuse
By Amy McConnell
Father Aimé Boisselle, known to most of his parishioners at Sacred Heart Church in Concord as a gentle and intelligent if troubled man, abruptly resigned last May after three Manchester men came forward to allege he had molested them in the 1960s. Yesterday, files released by the attorney general's office described the details of those allegations, as well as a complaint by a young college student who said in 1983 that Boisselle seduced him inside the Sacred Heart rectory.
The investigation also revealed a complaint made in the mid-1990s by a passerby who said she saw a young teenager inside the rectory early one morning. But it does not contain any allegations by minor victims since 1968, when Boisselle was assigned to a Berlin parish. Boisselle became pastor at Sacred Heart in 1981.
Yesterday, Boisselle's former parishioners - many of whom rallied around him last year - hesitated to comment publicly on the attorney general's findings.
"I thought he was a fine man," said Kevin Prince, president of the church's pastoral council. "That's basically all I want to say, okay?"
Other leaders of Boisselle's former parish confessed to having mixed feelings about the allegations, saddened both by what Boisselle apparently had done to three young boys long ago and by what the allegations had done to a man they loved and respected.
Boisselle was a bit of an eccentric, an incorrigible chain-smoker and an artist who stopped painting after the rectory burned to the ground several years ago with all his paintings inside - God's punishment for being so proud of his own talent, he would later say. He admitted to church leaders that he drank heavily. It was a habit that, along with his propensity for indulging in anonymous homosexual affairs, alienated his brother priests and led to periods of deep depression, according to the diocese's internal documents.
But, parishioners said last night, Boisselle also was a faithful pastor who willingly obliged when parishioners asked for an extra Mass for special events such as remembrance of the dead or Good Friday. Each Easter, he handed out cartons of dyed eggs to the children at Mass, making sure even the shyest got their share.
Plagued by health problems including blindness in one eye and severe pain in his legs and feet, Boisselle had wanted to resign for years. But he held on, said one parishioner who didn't want to be named last night, because he knew the diocese had considered closing Sacred Heart in recent years and he wanted to build up the church's finances, its membership and the strength of its lay leaders before he stepped aside.
The allegations were so long ago and people do change, the woman said. But then again, how could the congregation really trust Boisselle after learning that he had once molested young boys?
It was a question every member was forced to ask last May, after three of Boisselle's former Manchester parishioners told their stories of abuse to the diocese after 40 years.
"Why come forward and make these ugly accusations after having lived with it for 40 years, you might ask," states a letter one of the Manchester men delivered to members of Sacred Heart last May. "Until very recently I firmly believed that I was alone in my experience with Father Boisselle. . . . When someone else who had been similarly affected by him contacted me, I could no longer remain silent. I had to stop it from happening again."
In 1963 or 1964, Boisselle took at least two of the boys - who were not named in the attorney general's files - to his family home in Berlin, where one of the boys slept with Boisselle and was fondled by him, according to the files. Boisselle fondled the other boy on a camping trip to Maine and on several occasions had the boy sit in his lap, rubbing his back and fondling him while teaching him to drive.
Boisselle also told the boy, who was visiting Boisselle at his family home, to sleep in the same bed with Boisselle and not to wear pajamas or any underwear. Boisselle was naked at the time.
"He recalls some discussion whether he was circumcised or not and recalls masturbating Father Boisselle at his direction," the man told investigators. "The next morning Father Boisselle apologized and indicated to him that he had never done anything like that before and on the way home to Manchester threatened to kill himself and (the boy) by crashing his automobile into an embankment."
The boy, whose parents said he seemed disturbed after that visit, ultimately told a priest what had happened, and the priest promised to "take care of the matter," he told investigators. Soon, the boy's relationship with Boisselle ended, but he observed Boisselle beginning a similar relationship with one of his friends, he told them.
That second man indicated that he had had a longer relationship with Boisselle than the first man, "and what upset him most was that Father Boisselle ingratiated himself to his entire family," according to the attorney general's files. After Boisselle's father died, for instance, the boy and his family attended the funeral Mass and the meal that followed.
Then the second boy's parents asked him to stay overnight with Boisselle and return home to Manchester with him the next day. That night, Boisselle molested the second boy much as he had the first, fondling the boy and telling the boy to fondle him.
The boy's parents developed a strong friendship with Boisselle, and he often visited their home, where he would touch the boy sexually while his parents were downstairs.
"(The second man) recalls being put to bed after Father Boisselle's visits with his family and that Father Boisselle would spend twenty to thirty minutes when he was put to bed fondling him before leaving," investigators found. "(The second man) indicated that he has developed a warped sense of love as a result of this and that even as a young adult he was forced by his family to write cards and letters to Father Boisselle after he had been transferred from Saint Marie's Parish."
There is no record of any impropriety in any of the parishes Boisselle was assigned to - in Berlin, Hudson and Manchester - between 1968 and 1981, when he became pastor of Sacred Heart. But in 1983, a Notre Dame College student alleged that Boisselle got him drunk and seduced him at the rectory.
The student, who was not named in the file, was passing through Concord and decided to stop by Sacred Heart to go to confession, according to an internal diocesan memo by Chancellor Francis Christian dated Feb. 8, 1983.
After confession, Boisselle invited the man to stay for a drink, and in the course of conversation "indicated all of his problems," according to the memo. Boisselle kept giving the student alcohol - which the young man told Christian he shouldn't have accepted but did because he didn't want to offend a priest - and eventually got him drunk.
"During this time he began showing him pictures mostly of nearly nude males," the chancellor's letter states. "When (the student) realized he couldn't drive home, Father offered him a bed. Before long he was there undressing (the student) and eventually leading him to have sex with him."
Boisselle told church authorities a week later that the seduction was
"Upon questioning, Father Boisselle indicated that he had been trying to deal with the problem with (a psychiatrist)," the second memo states. "Father Christian indicated that this attempt at control would have to be intensified."
Boisselle, however, continued to struggle with his sexuality in the years that followed - but always with adult men, not children, according to the diocese's file. In 1992, Christian told the director of a mental evaluation center in St. Louis that there was no doubt that in the past Father Boisselle had misused alcohol and been subject to "apparently uncontrolled homosexual encounters."
"It came to our attention within the last month that he has once again fallen into heavy drinking and anonymous sexual encounters," Christian stated. "He is using the rectory as a base of operations."
Then, in 1995 or 1996, a woman made an anonymous complaint that she had observed a young teenager in the kitchen of the rectory at about 1 a.m. with "the house lit up" for all to see. The boy, she told the attorney general's office and church officials, wasn't wearing a shirt.
A church official then confronted Boisselle, who said the man was a 27 or 28 years old and that there was not a relationship between them - in fact, the man was his cousin.
"(The official) recalls counseling Father Boisselle to be careful
about the hour and the level of dress that anyone is in on the first floor
of the rectory," the memo states.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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