Priest: I Fathered Twins, but I Didn't Abuse Them
By Lisa Redmond
Lowell Sun (Lowell, MA)
November 26, 2005
Theadora and Alexandra Peterson say their father abused and rejected them years ago.
Their father just happens to be a priest.
The twins, now 20, have filed a lawsuit in Lowell Superior Court alleging that Rev. Lucien Richard, a priest with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Lowell, has refused to acknowledge them as his daughters, yet subjected them to physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
Richard admits he fathered the girls during an affair with a college student two decades ago, but denies allegations that he rejected and abused them.
When the twins were young, the Oblates were advised that Richard had fathered the two girls and about the alleged abuse. Nevertheless, the community continued to support Richard as a priest and "failed to take steps to terminate or reduce his abuse," according to the lawsuit.
The twins, whose only address is listed in court documents as Hampshire County, are suing Richard and the Oblates for more than $200,000, according to court documents.
But in a interview with Richard at the mission's home on Andover Street yesterday, the 73-year-old priest said he has always acknowledged he fathered the girls and has paid more than $500,000 in support of the children since the girls were babies.
"I am their father," said Richard, a Boston University professor. "I have accepted they are my children and I've paid more than a half-million dollars in support." He said he has kept all the cancelled checks.
He denies ever physically or sexually abusing the children.
"I never touched them [inappropriately]. Never," he said.
No criminal charges have ever been filed, he said.
Richard does acknowledge that having a priest for a father was an "emotional burden" for the girls.
"I didn't give them the right kind of family situation. I regret that," he said. But he tried to compensate by doing fatherly things with them, such as taking them to the park and camping.
"For the first five years, I saw the girls every day. Then they moved out of state," he said.
The girls have moved frequently with their mother over the years and he hasn't always been told where they are living, Richard said. "I kept in as much contact as their mother would let me," he said.
Richard says the lawsuit is an attempt by the girls' mother to get more money from him. He fears his daughters will be hurt by going public via a lawsuit.
"I don't have that much time left, so I'm not worried about me, but this will follow them for the rest of their lives," he said.
Attorney Alan Cantor, representing the Peterson twins, declined to comment on the lawsuit without getting their authorization.
The suit alleges that from 1977 to 1980, the twins' mother, Paulette Peterson, was a seminary student at Westin Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, where Richard was her professor, academic advisor and counselor.
Around 1978, Richard allegedly initiated a sexual affair with Peterson. Sometimes the liaisons occurred at the Oblates' religious house headed by Richard in Cambridge, according to the lawsuit.
Cantor alleges that in 1980, Peterson became pregnant by Richard, who convinced her to have an abortion, which he paid for. Then she had a second abortion, he alleges.
In 1984, Peterson became pregnant again by Richard, but she refused an abortion this time, the lawsuit alleges. On July 8, 1985, twins Theadora and Alexandra Peterson were born.
Richard readily admits to the on-again, off-again affair with the girls' mother that lasted about five years, but he denies knowing about any abortions.
At age 53, Richard said, he became a father. He didn't find out that Paulette Peterson had twins until they were 6 months old. He has never sought a DNA test to prove paternity. For tax purposes, though, Richard said he has asked Peterson several times for a letter from her saying he is the girls' father, but he received nothing.
He did tell his superiors at the Oblates about the children early on, and the Archdiocese of Boston was notified about a year ago. Richard, who has never been a parish priest, continued to teach and did not leave the priesthood.
"We all have our character flaws," Richard said. "I had one thing in mind and that was to keep my job and support those girls."
Richard said he never considered leaving the priesthood to marry the twins' mother.
"It wouldn't have worked," he said.
After leaving the college in Cambridge, Richard has worked for the past decade teaching philosophy and theology at Boston University. Richard, who suffers from a number of health problems and must use a cane, has been on sabbatical and plans to retire at the end of the year.
"I love my daughters," he said. "[The lawsuit] hurts me, but I know this isn't from them."
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