Money, 'Revenge' Cited As Roots of Pastor's Sex Abuse Charge
By Thor Jourgensen
September 25, 2012
|Thomas Vargas talks about Rev. James E. Gaudreau, the pastor of St. Joseph’s who has been placed on administrative leave, Monday.|
LYNN — Carmen Sierra wept over the Archdiocese of Boston's announcement that the Rev. James Gaudreau, pastor of St. Joseph's Church where Sierra has worshiped for 45 years, faces an allegation of child sexual abuse.
"I don't believe that. He's the best. Everybody cares about him," Sierra said Monday.
She lives three blocks away from the brick church on Union Street where another long-time parishioner, Jimmy Gonzalez, said more than 800 people attend 11:30 Mass on Sunday morning. Gonzalez on Monday said he thinks "revenge" motivated the accusation against the stern, sometimes confrontational Gaudreau.
"During all these years, Rev. Gaudreau has made a lot of enemies," Gonzalez said.
He said Gaudreau has told parishioners who attend summer Masses dressed too casually to leave church and return in more appropriate attire. Gonzalez said Gaudreau a week ago asked a man to leave the church after the man, in Gaudreau's view, acted inappropriately. Gonzalez said the exchange continued outside St. Joseph's and bordered on becoming physical.
The Archdiocese through a spokeswoman and in a press release limited descriptions of the allegation to stating that it " ... concerns conduct alleged to have occurred in approximately 2006 and was only recently reported to the Archdiocese."
The Archdiocese placed Gaudreau, 69, on an administrative leave of absence last Friday and spokeswoman Kellyanne Dignan said Gaudreau is no longer living in St. Joseph's rectory on Green Street. She declined to identify Gaudreau's present residence.
"There is an internal investigation going on - we have a department within the Archdiocese that does that. We will handle it as quickly and expeditiously as possible," Dignan said Monday.
Gonzalez said parishioners were told they can write letters to Gaudreau and drop them at the rectory where they will be picked up once a week and delivered to the pastor.
The Archdiocese in a press release Sunday stated that it referred the allegation against Gaudreau to police. Lynn Police Lt. Christopher Kelly said on Monday: "I can only confirm the Lynn police are conducting an investigation."
Lynn resident Thomas Vargas on Monday said he briefly served as an altar boy at St. Joseph's in 2006 and knew other youth who were servers. He called the allegation against Gaudreau "ridiculous" and said the pastor's accuser is motivated by money.
"Someone wants to get paid - I'm 99 percent sure," Vargas said.
Vargas described Gaudreau as "very strict" and said Gaudreau steered young men attending St. Joseph's away from youth gangs. Gaudreau officiated at the marriage of Vargas and his wife, Anyelisha, last June.
"He's given us a lot of good advice," Vargas said.
Gonzalez recalled Gaudreau frequently warning parish parents to not leave their children unattended outside their homes and said Gaudreau offered him assistance when Gonzalez was looking for work.
"He said, 'Do you need help paying the rent?'" he recalled.
He said Gaudreau spent three weeks in 2011 helping build a convent in Guatemala and participated in a similar project in the Dominican Republic.
Dignan said Gaudreau was ordained in 1969 and assigned to St. Patrick's Church in Roxbury and then St. Rose Church in Chelsea before being sent to St. Joseph's as Spanish apostolate for the Greater Lynn area. She said he held that post from 1984 to 1993 before becoming pastor.
Sierra said Gaudreau visited her in April in a rehabilitation center where she went to recuperate from a hospitalization.
"He told me, 'I'm so glad to see you,'" she said.