Sex abuse allegations 'credible’ against deceased Northampton priest Paul Archambault
By Michael Majchrowicz
Daily Hampshire Gazette
March 29, 2016
|THE REV. PAUL ARCHAMBAULT|
NORTHAMPTON — Allegations that a deceased Northampton priest had abused a teenage boy were credible, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield said Tuesday in announcing an end to a lawsuit brought in 2013.
The diocese announced that it had reached an undisclosed settlement with a man who said the Rev. Paul J. Archambault sexually abused him beginning when he was 13 and that the priest’s name had been added to an official list— which is maintained by the diocese — of clergy who face credible abuse allegations.
The man who accused Archambault was 20 years old when he asserted in the lawsuit that the priest had sexually assaulted him more than four dozen times in locations such as St. Patrick’s Church in South Hadley, at a spiritual retreat they attended together in Vermont, and at Archambault’s Northampton home, according to court documents. The man said the alleged assaults continued for four years.
The Gazette generally does not release the names of victims of sexual assault.
According to the diocese, Archambault was first assigned to St. Theresa Church in South Hadley in 2005. After a year and a half, he relocated to Baystate Medical Center in 2007 where he was a chaplain. He made his final relocation to St. Mary’s Church in Hampden in 2008.
Archambault, 42, died in July 2011 when he took his own life after he was confronted with the claims of abuse, according to the diocese. The correlation between the suicide and the allegations “only became clear once all the legal findings in this case came to be,” said diocese spokesman Mark Dupont.
After offering an apology to the victim and his family, Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski said in a statement Tuesday: “I want to assure them and the entire community of my fervent resolve to continue to address this terrible plague upon our Church through our ongoing screening, education and awareness efforts.”
But this was not the first time Archambault was accused of acting inappropriately with youngsters from the church, according to court records examined by the Gazette.
In November 2007, Archambault was called before the Diocesan Review Board — for the second time — to answer to parishioners’ allegations of “boundary violations,” according to the review board’s findings, included in court records. These findings were described in a letter written to Timothy McDonnell, who was bishop at the time. The incident in question involved the priest allegedly giving a teen boy a massage.
When Archambault was called to appear before the board Nov. 14, 2007, he showed up with an attorney as well as a certificate indicating he was a trained massage therapist, Dupont said in an email Tuesday.
Archambault was called before the Diocesan Review Board at least one other time prior to 2007, Dupont said, but he could not say exactly when.
The first time the review board summoned Archambault “was related to concerns that he was not showing good judgment in maintaining proper boundaries with young people,” Dupont said.
After this meeting, the diocese hired a private investigator and the State Police, who determined Archambault did not pose a risk after no reports of abuse surfaced at the time, Dupont added.
Following the last meeting with the review board, members made the recommendation that Archambault “should be monitored by a mature priest who would be a mentor to him regarding boundary violations,” according to the letter outlining the board’s findings.
That never happened, said attorney John Connor, of Greenfield, who represented the victim in the sexual assault suit.
“Recommendations were made, and then as far as we’ve learned, very little, if anything, was done to more closely monitor his behavior,” Connor said. “From our point of view, there were red flags about this particular individual, and we think a lot more could have been done to watch him more closely.”
Dupont said Tuesday that he could not be certain whether or not a priest was, indeed, assigned to keep an eye on Archambault.
But even if the review board had followed through with its recommendation of appointing a mentor priest for Archambault, it would have done little good, said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
“What gives a man who has spent years studying church history, theology, structure and music any expertise or ability to oversee a troubled colleague?” Clohessy asked, adding that the review board’s recommendations came as no surprise to him.
“It’s painfully common that church officials use euphemisms and conduct so-called investigations that are at best secretive and at worst shams,” he said. “The responsible thing to do is not keep dealing with these abuse reports and suspicions quietly and internally.”
The letter from the Diocesan Review Board to then-Bishop McDonnell in 2007 ended with an additional recommendation for Archambault:
“The Board also believes he needs to be more cognizant of the Diocese’s Code of Conduct and Policy.”
Note: Anyone may report clergy abuse confidentially by calling the Office of Child and Youth Protection at 413-452-0624.