Priest's Letter Says He Is 'Ashamed' of Abuse

By Charles Honey
Grand Rapids Press
January 10, 200

Caledonia -- The defrocked pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church admitted in a letter to parishioners he sexually abused a young boy, but insisted he did not touch him.

In a letter sent Tuesday, David Le Blanc said he was "ashamed" that he abused a boy in his care for one night in 1971.

"I was immodest with him and embarrassed him," wrote Le Blanc, who was Holy Family's pastor since 1996. "Although there was no physical contact or physical coercion, my act would still constitute sexual abuse because it violated the sixth commandment."

He referred to the commandment forbidding adultery, which Jesus said includes looking lustfully at another.

Le Blanc also expressed sorrow at the loss of his ministry, which he compared to the loss of a spouse, and regretted the hurt he has caused parishioners.

"I am devastated by the shame and scandal that I have brought on you and this wonderful community and the other communities I have served," wrote Le Blanc, who served seven parishes including Blessed Sacrament, St. Francis Xavier and Holy Spirit in Grand Rapids.

Le Blanc's letter followed his removal from public ministry, announced Monday by Bishop Walter Hurley. Hurley said he discovered the incident while making a final review of files on priests accused of abuse.

Hurley did not criticize Le Blanc for sending the letter.

"Obviously, he wanted to express things from his perspective and I can respect that," Hurley said. "We live in a free country and people are free to express their views."

Le Blanc confirmed he admitted the abuse when his victim reported it to the Grand Rapids Catholic Diocese in 1993. He wrote that he asked to meet with the young man and did so with a professional therapist at the diocesan offices.

"I was able to express my sorrow and he forgave me," Le Blanc wrote. He said they embraced and the young man told the therapist he did not need therapy. The two never met again but exchanged "a couple of phone calls," he wrote.

The incident resurfaced when Le Blanc met with Hurley Dec. 15 about retiring next summer, he wrote: "Much to my surprise, he brought up the abuse that I thought was resolved."

Hurley told Le Blanc he had to remove him under the U.S. bishops' policy, at first suggesting his retirement could be moved up to February and that he could "leave quietly," Le Blanc wrote. But at their next meeting Dec. 20, Hurley said the removal would have to be made public in accordance with the policy, he wrote.

Hurley said he expressed the thought about early retirement at one point, "but not really seriously because I knew I couldn't do that" under the policy.

Le Blanc said he believes he has been forgiven by God as well as his victim, and asked for parishioners' prayers. He said he will pray for them, say Mass privately and "help informally as a Catholic" however he can.

"I will always be a priest at heart," he wrote. "No one can take that away from me."


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