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  Papers: Church Knew of Paquin in '94

By Robin Washington
Boston Herald
May 31, 2002

Boston Archdiocese officials called the child sexual abuse spree by the Rev. Ronald H. Paquin "criminal" as far back as 1994 but failed to report him to authorities, according to documents released yesterday.

The 500-plus pages, released under court order in lawsuits against the suspended priest, now being held on $ 500,000 bail on three counts of child rape, show in graphic detail his molestation of young boys throughout the 1970s and '80s.

The records also detail Paquin's 30-year sexual relationship with his mentor, the late Rev. Bernard St. Hilaire, whom Paquin says took him under his wing and abused him when he was a teen.

The reference to Paquin's acts as criminal is the first so far by archdiocese officials in the public disclosure of files on problem priests.

"I spoke (to a victim) today," the Rev. John A. Dooher, who served as a monitor for Paquin, wrote to the Rev. John McCormack in April 1994.

"He knows about events in Haverhill and Methuen. If other, younger victims confirmed then there would be a possible criminal case leading to jail for Ron Paquin," wrote Dooher, now pastor of St. Mary's Parish in Dedham. In another letter to McCormack in January of that year, the Rev. Edward O'Flaherty acknowledged those illegal acts, but questioned if Paquin understood them.

"I hope it is clear in his mind that being involved in criminal activity does put a permanent crimp in his ministerial involvement," wrote O'Flaherty, now director of pastoral support for priests.

The Paquin files are similar to those released in the case of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley. He appeared in Newton District Court yesterday for a probable cause hearing on charges he raped a youth at a Newton parish 18 years ago. The hearing was continued to June 24.

The Paquin papers were released as a Vatican-sanctioned journal denounced the U.S. media for "morbid" behavior and anti-Catholic bias in covering the child sex scandals. The article will appear today in the twice-monthly Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica.

The suggestion that Paquin was in denial about his crimes was shared by the Rev. Charles J. Higgins, Law's personnel delegate, who wrote to Paquin in November 2000, saying the priest did not "grasp the existing reality." "There are still victims, legal and potential criminal claims," Higgins added.

Though church leaders have invoked First Amendment privileges as a reason for their failure to turn in pedophile priests, one official suggested Paquin himself was obligated to report a sex abuse claim against St. Hilaire. Archdiocese officials declined comment yesterday.

"I asked (Paquin) if he was aware that being there and not reporting the matter was a felony," the Rev. Brian Flatley wrote in 1996 about a boy allegedly molested by St. Hilaire.

The Flatley letter was one of several citing Paquin's relationship with St. Hilaire, stating, "(The victim) stated that Father Paquin told him that he and Father St. Hilaire slept in the same bed for thirty years."

In a January 2002 interview, Paquin told the Herald of his abuse by St. Hilaire, though he did not name him. "My abuse lasted for many, many years," he said. "This priest was a tremendous man. On the one side he was educated and brilliant. But on the dark side he was what we would call a pedophile today."

The records released yesterday include the text of several sex abuse lawsuits against Paquin, settled for various amounts by the archdiocese, and a ledger sheet of 19 alleged victims ranging from 12 to 16 years old.

But they also show Bernard Cardinal Law assigned the troubled priest to a chaplaincy at Youville Hospital in Cambridge in 1998, despite a 1992 complaint by an alleged victim "sexually abused by priest while patient in (another) hospital."

The Paquin files shed light on the work of a review board set up by Law in 1993 to handle molesters. The board reviewed Paquin's history three times from 1993 to 1997, and in March 1997 urged he "seek laicization" due to a history of child abuse dating to 1964. But by May 1997, the board altered its stance and recommended that Paquin receive psychological tests. It then agreed that he could minister at Youville.

In June 1998, Law's then-personnel delegate, the Rev. William F. Murphy, sent a note to Youville describing the accused molester as "well suited" to working there.

Not until late 2000 did Law and Higgins move to oust Paquin.

 
 

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