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  Congregation Wants Priest Back
He Was Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Concord Monitor [Dover NH]
June 6, 2003

CODOVER - Members of St. Charles parish here want their pastor to return and the bishop to leave.

They have asked the the Diocese of Manchester to reinstate Rev. Paul Gregoire, who was suspended because of a 30-year-old allegation of sexual misconduct.

Gregoire, a Dover native who served at St. Charles since 1993, was suspended in December. A woman reported Gregoire engaged in sexual misconduct with her in Seattle, Wash., during the 1970s.

In a letter to parishioners, Gregoire maintained the incident was a misunderstanding.

He is appealing the suspension through the church, according to members of the St. Charles Pastoral Council.

After writing letters to Bishop John McCormack and gathering 500 petition signatures demanding Gregoire's reinstatement, members of the pastoral council are taking their case to the public. They also are calling on the bishop to resign.

The 11 council members signed an open letter to McCormack, asking him to "step aside and let somebody with credibility judge Father Gregoire and rebuild this diocese."

Council President Richard Valliere questioned the timing of the diocese decision. Gregoire was removed in December, while the church was still in the public aftershock of one of the worst scandals in its history. Among the main allegations was that church officials, including McCormack did not act on sexual abuse allegations.

It was a perfect opportunity, Valliere said, for the diocese to try to save face by taking the first available opportunity to demonstrate its hard stance against abuse.

"We want everybody to know that we believe in Father Paul, and there is no way that this should end a career that he has worked so hard for," he said.

The diocese maintains Gregoire was removed after its own investigation determined the Seattle incident was a "credible allegation." Diocese spokesman Pat McGee said it occurred while the woman was in her teens.

McGee expressed sympathy for the anguish of parishioners in Dover, saying "Obviously we feel badly that some parishioners do not agree with this," but emphasized the church's priority is protecting children, and no accused priest would get special treatment.

McGee said the diocese received the allegation in writing in August of 2002. At the time, McGee said the diocese had received no other allegations against Gregoire.

Council member Robert Emond said attendance at St. Charles has dropped since Gregoire's removal.

"We've worked hard to hold the parish together . . . We're hoping one day somebody will wake up over in Manchester and well get him back," he said.

 
 

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