Ex-Fall River Priest, Alleged Pedophile, Defrocked

By Richard C. Dujardin
Providence Journal
May 7, 2009

Fall River, Mass. — A former Catholic priest who was kicked out of the Diocese of Fall River and stripped of his priestly faculties in 1963 after accusations of "improper behavior" with young boys only to resurface a year later as a priest in Indiana and then in Vermont has been officially removed from the priesthood by Pope Benedict XVI.

Church officials in Burlington, Vt., Fort Wayne, Ind., and Springfield, Mass., confirmed on Thursday that the Rev. Edward O. Paquette Jr., who left numerous complaints of sexual abuse of young boys in his wake before settling in Westfield, Mass., was removed from the priesthood Jan. 31, making it "impossible" for him to validly serve again as a priest.

Father Paquette, now 81, last came into the news in December when a jury in Vermont awarded a former altar boy $3.6 million in a suit he filed against the Diocese of Burlington for failing to protect him abuse inflicted by the priest during the 1970's. Two years ago, after another jury trial, a Vermont court ordered the Burlington diocese to pay out $8.7 million to a Maryland man who also claimed he had been abused by same priest.

Gloria Gibson, communications director for the Diocese of Burlington, said the diocese was currently appealing one of those court orders, and is still attempting to deal with an additional 20 or so other complaints involving Paquette. She said Burlington Bishop Salvatore Matano, who formerly served as co-chancellor for the Diocese of Providence, had left word that he would have no comment about the former priest.

According to John Kearns, spokesman for the Diocese of Fall River, confirmed Thursday that Paquette was originally ordained in the Fall River diocese in 1957. After receiving complaints of "improper behavior" by Paquette, then-Bishop James L. Connolly ordered the priest to undergo a series of evaluations and denied him permission to continue to present himself as a priest.

He said that despite that order, and despite a strong recommendation by Bishop Connolly not to admit him, the Diocese of Fort Wayne accepted Paquette's request that he be incardinated in the diocese there and to work again as a Catholic priest.

Paquette was able to do that in part because under the rules of the Catholic Church, each bishop is considered is given free reign to run his own diocese, irrespective of what other bishops might say or recommend. The only way for a priest to be permanently reduced to lay status is by a decree from the Holy See, as reflected by the recent decree by Pope Benedict.

According to the anti-clergy sexua- abuse group, the Fort Wayne diocese informed Paquette in 1971 after receiving numerous complaints, that he was "no longer needed. He was immediately accepted into the Burlington diocese in 1972, serving there for six years before being barred from ministry there.

There are reports that after his removal, Paquette would still be seen occasionally wearing a Roman collar. Living in Westfield, Mass., he reportedly has lived a quiet life over the last three decades, insisting that he is innocent of all the allegations against him.


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