|Matano Memo Surfaces in Rhode Island Priest Abuse Case
By Sam Hemingway
Burlington Free Press
December 7, 2007
Bishop Salvatore Matano, head of the state's Roman Catholic diocese since 2005, helped a Rhode Island priest accused of fondling boys find another parish assignment, according to court documents in a Providence, R.I., court case.
A lawyer for the Providence diocese, however, claims Matano did not know about the priest's background at the time he made the request.
Matano was director of the Providence diocese's priest personnel office in 1980 when he wrote to Bishop Louis Gelineau and suggested that the Rev. Roland Lepire be given another parish after Lepire was removed from parishes in Woonsocket and Cranston, R.I.
"During my conversation with Father, he expressed a strong desire to return to parish ministry," Matano wrote to Gelineau on July 22, 1980, in a memo on file with the Providence Superior Court. "Perhaps if the psychiatrist's report is positive, Father Lepire could be considered for a parish assignment."
Providence diocesan records show that Lepire was assigned to a parish in Central Falls, R.I., after Matano made his request. According to a lawsuit filed in 2002, a Florida man claims Lepire molested him as a child in the early 1980s after reassignment.
Lepire was also identified as a priest who molested another individual in a case settled out of court in 2002. He was dismissed as a priest by the Providence diocese in 2004.
The Lepire matter, as well as those of two other priests who are the target of ongoing litigation in Rhode Island, were subjects of a lengthy Providence Journal article that appeared in the newspaper's Sunday editions.
Matano declined comment Monday on the Lepire case on the advice of Providence diocesan lawyers. "I would be happy to speak to you, but it is a case down there and that is the instructions I have been given," he said.
James T. Murphy, a lawyer for the Providence diocese, said he advised Matano not to speak because the Rhode Island case is pending and Matano might be called as a witness at some point.
Murphy also said Matano should not discuss the case while the Vermont diocese is in a trial in Burlington on claims a priest molested James Turner at a New York motel in 1977. Matano attended all five days of the Turner trial in Burlington last week.
Murphy disputed claims by lawyers for the victim in the case who allege Lepire molested a boy in Woonsocket in 1979 and cited police affidavits that contradict allegations made by the victim's mother that she told police about Lepire's molesting her son.
Murphy also said Matano was a nonvoting member of the priest personnel office at the time he wrote the 1980 memo to Gelineau and could not have known the nature of Lepire's problems in Woonsocket and Cranston.
"He received and passed on messages for actions by others," Murphy said.
One of the messages Matano handled in the Lepire matter was a handwritten note from the Providence diocese's auxiliary bishop at the time, Kenneth Angell. Angell became the bishop for the Burlington diocese and was succeeded by Matano.
"Sal, for confidential reasons, Father Roland M. Lepire now at St. Aloysius in Woonsocket must be transferred at once," Angell wrote Matano in 1979. "He should not be reassigned in the Woonsocket area."
Angell advised Matano in the note to arrange to have Lepire reassigned to another parish "within a week (if possible). I will talk to the prospective pastor before the assignment is finalized."
Matano's 1980 memo indicates that Lepire was considered for a position as priest at a religious retreat run by the church. Matano wrote that he had been advised by a nun at the facility that she was not interested in having Lepire work there.
Contact Sam Hemingway at 660-1850 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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