Church Settles 4 Cases Priest Sex Abuse Claims Detailed
By Annmarie Timmins
Concord Monitor [New Hampshire]
April 28, 2005
The Diocese of Manchester has settled new sexual abuse complaints against three of its priests for allegations dating back to the 1950s and 1970s. Two of the three priests - Monsignor John Boyd and the Rev. Gerard Beaudet - have not been previously accused. The third, the Rev. Romeo Valliere, has.
Concord lawyer Chuck Douglas settled the claims on behalf of four people, two women and two men. He declined to be specific about how much the diocese paid the four, saying only that the total "ranged up to and over six figures." In the two and a half years since the clergy sexual abuse scandal broke, Douglas has represented about 30 alleged victims. He said this recent round of negotiations was a bit different.
First, the diocese has hired a former federal agent experienced in child sexual abuse to investigate the complaints against priests. Diocesan staff had handled those investigations in the past. Secondly, the diocese told Douglas this time that it has much less money to pay out now than it did in 2002, when it settled claims from 78 alleged victims for nearly $6 million.
"They are very clear that they cannot pay the numbers they were paying," Douglas said. "They said they just can't do it, and I confirmed that (they can't) through other sources."
The Rev. Edward Arsenault, spokesman for the diocese, declined to discuss the terms or amounts of the settlements yesterday because the alleged victims asked both Douglas and the diocese to keep those details private. !He confirmed that the diocese has hired a retired federal agent to help investigate victims' complaints. The agent meets with the alleged victim, in the company of his or her lawyer and a victim advocate from the diocese. After an interview and investigation, the agent writes a report for diocesan staff.
"It's part of our ongoing efforts to be thorough," Arsenault said.
Arsenault said the diocese is also trying to make survivors more aware of treatment, counseling and retreat options available through the diocese. Douglas said the diocese has continually asked him to forward that information to his clients. In addition, the diocese is encouraging abuse survivors to participate in a national survey on the Catholic church's response to clergy abuse.
The survey, organized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, asks survivors to recommend ways the church could better respond to their concerns and abuse. The survey, which is anonymous, asks survivors how the abuse affected them, if they told anyone and, if they didn't, why not. It also asks how friends and family responded to the abuse and whether anyone reported the abuse to authorities. One question asked if survivors should have contact with their abuser, and if so, where and how.
Meanwhile, the diocese is continuing to alert state officials to all new allegations against its priests. That was true in the most recent round of settlements, Arsenault said, even though two of the priests, Boyd and Beaudet, are dead. Boyd died in 1968, Beaudet in 1982.
At the time they allegedly abused children, Beaudet was pastor at St. Albert's parish in West Stewartstown and Boyd was overseeing St. John's School in Laconia. That school is now called the Holy Trinity School.
Boyd's accuser said she was abused in 1957 and 1958 when she was a 7- and 8-year-old student of St. John's School. She told Douglas and the diocese that Boyd made her perform oral sex on him in the church, telling her that "God had chosen (her) to make Father Boyd feel good." Sometimes Boyd paid the girl $1.50, in return but he told her mother the money was compensation for her help with his groceries.
The woman, who said she was assaulted more than 25 times, contacted Douglas more than a year and a half ago. At the time, she was seeking treatment for general depression and had just made a connection between her condition and her abuse, Douglas said. But it took her months to be able to talk clearly enough about Boyd's action to approach the diocese.
The three other alleged victims, who attended St. Albert's parish in West Stewartstown, came to Douglas more or less as a group.
The first alleged victim to come forward was a man who said he was abused during the summers in the early 1970s when he visited West Stewartstown as a 12 year old. His cousins, who lived in the area, invited him to St. Albert's, where they said Beaudet let them drink alcohol. The man told Douglas and the diocese that Beaudet began abusing him, first by making him touch Beaudet and then by raping him anally.
The accuser said he tried to report the alleged abuse to his parents but was discouraged when they didn't believe him. When the man took his complaints to the diocese in recent months, officials there wanted corroboration because they had not received previous complaints against Beaudet, Douglas said. When the man went looking for someone to back up his story, he found two other victims, according to Douglas.
One was a woman, who also attended St. Albert's in the summer during the early 1970s. When she was 14, she told the Douglas and the diocese, Beaudet would invite her inside the church, where he would offer her orange juice laced with vodka. Once she was drunk, Beaudet made her perform oral sex, she said. He explained that the sex was permitted because it was part of his counseling duties. according to the woman.
The final alleged victim attended the same West Stewartstown parish but did so in the mid-1970s when Valliere was pastor. When the man was 13 or 14, Valliere invited him to the rectory for beer and video games and sometimes offered marijuana.
Once Valliere had established a friendship, he made the alleged victim perform oral sex, according to the accuser.
Valliere, who is retired, received treatment in 1989 for a "homosexual problem," according to church records. He admitted to abusing two boys that year, according to church records. The church's file also contains a 1976 letter from a parent documenting drunken parties for boys in Valliere's rectory in West Stewartstown.
Valliere took a brief leave in 1989 but returned without restriction on his ministry. He was placed on sick leave in 1996 and granted retirement in 2001. His name was among the first 15 priests the diocese identified as facing credible accusations back in 2002.
(The survivor survey is available at http://www.victim-outreach.com).