Retired Priest Who Abused Boys Is Allowed to Return to Canada
By Gary V. Murray
Telegram & Gazette
October 24, 2006
Worcester — An 82-year-old retired priest released from state prison yesterday after serving a sentence for sexually assaulting altar boys at a Bellingham parish more than 20 years ago will be allowed to return to his religious order in Canada.
Judge Jeffrey A. Locke has not yet ruled on whether the Rev. Paul M. Desilets, now on probation, will still be required to undergo sex-offender treatment, as previously ordered by the court.
Rev. Desilets was sentenced to 1 to 1-1/2 years in state prison on May 11, 2005, after pleading guilty in Worcester Superior Court to multiple counts of indecent assault and battery on a child, indecent assault and battery and assault and battery. The Catholic priest admitted assaulting 18 male victims from 1978 to 1984, when they were altar boys at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Bellingham and he was associate pastor.
In addition to imposing the state prison sentence under a plea agreement in the case, Judge Timothy S. Hillman, now a federal magistrate judge, placed Rev. Desilets on probation for 10 years, to begin upon his release from custody. As conditions of probation, Rev. Desilets was ordered to stay away from his victims, to have no unsupervised contact with anyone under age 18 and to undergo a sex-offender evaluation and any related treatment recommended by the court's Probation Department.
Last Wednesday, five days before Rev. Desilets was scheduled to be released from the state prison in Shirley upon completion of his sentence, his lawyer filed a motion asking that the conditions of the retired cleric's probation be amended. Lawyer Dennis J. Kelly asked that Rev. Desilets be excused from sex-offender counseling because of his advanced age and failing health and that he be allowed to move to Canada to live in an infirmary at his religious order, Les Clercs de St. Viateur in Joliette, province of Quebec. Mr. Kelley also requested that Rev. Desilets' probation be changed from supervised to administrative, which would allow him to report to his probation officer by mail or telephone, rather than in person.
Chief Probation Officer Thomas A. Turco III told Judge Locke last week that he was trying to determine whether probation officials in Canada would be willing to take over supervision of Rev. Desilets' case. Mr. Turco said Rev. Desilets should be required to complete the sex offender treatment across the border if Canada agreed to accept the transfer of supervision.
Assistant Chief Probation Officer Jean M. Orawsky told the judge yesterday that her office had still not received an answer to its transfer request. Ms. Orawsky also told Judge Locke it was likely that Rev. Desilets, whose plans to live with a relative after his release from prison fell through, would end up living in a shelter without monitoring or medical assistance if he were not allowed to move back to Canada. Rev. Desilets was extradited from Canada in 2005 after being indicted in 2002.
The retired priest appeared in court yesterday in a wheelchair. His lawyer has said he is suffering from diabetes, anemia, cataracts, episodes of vertigo and loss of consciousness and chronic pain related to a bout with polio as a child.
As a condition of allowing Rev. Desilets to return to the religious order he joined at age 16, Judge Locke had the Rev. Hubert Hamelin, one of two priests who were in court ready to accompany Rev. Desilets back to Les Clercs de St. Viateur, sign a written acceptance of "custodianship." Rev. Hamelin, assistant provincial superior of the order, agreed to notify probation officials here in the event Rev. Desilets leaves the religious community or has contact with anyone under age 18.
The judge had Rev. Desilets sign a waiver of his right to extradition proceedings should authorities here demand his return to Massachusetts.
Rev. Desilets was ordered to return to court Dec. 22 for another hearing. Judge Locke said he would decide at that time whether to exempt Rev. Desilets from sex-offender counseling or change the status of his probation from supervised to administrative.
Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey T. Travers said three of Rev. Desilets' victims he was able to reach opposed any changes in the terms of probation.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.