National Activist Calls for Resignation of Springfield Bishop over Handling of Recent Priest Abuse Case
By Stephanie Barry
March 31, 2016
|HUNTINGTON - Olan Horne, a national advocate for survivors of priest abuse along with being a survivor himself, is shown here at a Huntington auction house speaking about the Springfield Catholic Diocese's recent handling of an abuse settlement. (Photo by Stephanie Barry)|
Olan Horne, a nationally recognized activist for survivors of priest abuse, has been through the resignations of a pope and a cardinal. He is now calling for the resignation of a local bishop in the wake of a recent announcement by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.
Horne said he and a local deacon ushered the family of the victim of the late Rev. Paul Archambault through a series of meetings with diocesan officials and found the response lacking.
Horne blames retired Bishop Timothy McDonnell for sweeping Archambault's history under the rug and accuses current Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of stonewalling the family and resisting transparency. Horne insists Rozanski should step down. The diocese has defended its handling of the Archambault case and said Rozanski will remain.
Horne has accused the local church of a cover-up reminiscent of the Boston priest abuse scandal, albeit on a much smaller scale.
But, scale doesn't mean a whole lot to Horne, a victim of one of the most notorious pedophile priests in Boston: the late Rev. Joseph Birmingham. Horne has gone from organizing grassroots support groups for Birmingham's victims to pushing for national reforms within the church and even earned an audience with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome in 2008.
Now, after the Springfield diocese on Tuesday announced it had added Archambault's name to its running list of accused priests in connection with a recent legal settlement with a 22-year-old victim, Horne is returning to his roots as a local activist. One victim, one family at a time.
"If we waited for bishops and if I waited for lawyers to fix this, it would never happen," said Horne, 56, who moved to Huntington seven years ago to escape the glare of the priest abuse spotlight, plus a shattered marriage and family.
In Springfield, Archambault fatally shot himself in 2011 in his living quarters at Our Lady of Sacred Heart Church. Diocesan officials on Tuesday conceded the suicide came on the heels of a confrontation over the abuse.
Moreover, Archambault had shown signs of trouble even predating his ordination in 2005. He was summonsed before the Diocesan Review Board – first, for "immaturity issues," records state, then a second time in 2007 for giving the then-13-year-old victim a massage in public.
The diocese has argued they investigated the 2007 incident and found nothing "actionable." Archambault came to that hearing with a lawyer, a masseuse certification and the youth poised to act as a "character witness."
They opted to place Archambault in a setting with "more supervision," according to diocesan spokesman Mark Dupont.
According to his history, Archambault had bounced around the diocese without a parish for several years since his ordination.
During this time, David Baillargeon, an ordained deacon at Holy Family church in Russell, encountered Archambault during various Catholic events including the annual Marian Procession in Northampton. The two became friends.
|HUNTINGTON - David Baillargeon, an ordained deacon with Holy Family Church in Russell, listens as friend and activist Olan Horne weighs in on the Springfield Catholic Diocese's handling of a recent abuse case.|
"I thought he was a fine guy. He seemed a little timid, a little different. I wondered why he didn't have his own parish," said Baillargeon, who owns Swinging Doors auction house in Huntington with his wife.
Baillargeon said Archambault often complained of feeling isolated and depressed, and at times about being "dead broke." Baillargeon said he occasionally slipped him $50 or treated the cleric to lunch. The priest also practiced target shooting with his .22 caliber semiautomatic pistol on Baillargeon's property.
"Once I asked him to help with a charity I was organizing for kids. He said: 'Oh yeah, I can help with that. I just won't have direct contact with the kids,'" Baillargeon recalled. "I thought it was rather odd, but he didn't elaborate."
According to Baillargeon, Archambault made another disturbing disclosure.
"Sometimes I just feel like shooting myself," Baillargeon said the priest blurted out one day.
Baillargeon asked whether he was receiving treatment for depression. Archambault responded that he was, at the urging of the church.
When Archambault was found dead in the closet of the rectory, Baillargeon said he felt partially responsible. He offered to officiate at Archambault's funeral Mass.
Two years later, a distraught mother called him to ask for his help with a "friend's son" she feared might have been abused by Archambault. Later that night in 2013, the woman called back, sobbing because her son was threatening suicide. Baillargeon told her to call the diocesan hotline for victims. No one answered, and no one called back, he said.
"I told her all I could do was sit up and pray for them all night, which is exactly what I did," he said. "The next day, I told her if she was unwilling to report it, I would have to" – not because as a deacon Baillargeon is a "mandatory reporter," but for reasons of morality, he said.
This is when Baillargeon brought Horne into the fold, telling the overwrought mother he had a friend who was a seasoned advocate for of survivors of clergy abuse.
"If we waited for bishops and if I waited for lawyers to fix this, it would never happen." ~ Olan Horne
Baillargeon calls Horne "a gift" to families and the church.
The local diocese has said while he has been a fierce advocate for the victim's family, Horne is a gift they'd like to return from an administrative standpoint.
At once passionate and profane, Horne is understandably cynical about the Catholic church. He endured years of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of Birmingham, only to later learn the prelates who were supposed to protect him and others like him covered it up.
"Do I have PTSD? Yeah. Am I bitter? Well, no sh-t," he interjects amid long rants about the institutional flaws of the church.
Horne says McDonnell claimed he knew nothing about Archambault's questionable history and made promises to visit the victim's family, which he never fulfilled. When Rozanski succeeded McDonnell in 2014, the family had already filed a lawsuit, but Horne requested a meeting to bring the family's troubles back to light.
He said Rozanski dragged his feet meeting the family, and once it occurred it didn't go well. This is where Horne's version diverges with the diocese's version of what transpired next.
One thing both parties agree on: Horne was agitated right out of the box. Rozanski ultimately asked him to "shut up," according to Horne. He said he temporarily complied – for seven minutes, exactly.
"While he contends otherwise, he dominated the conversation with his own agenda items, not allowing for the bishop to have an uninterrupted dialogue with the family to hear from them directly their concerns. Finally as a last resort, so as to restore the pastoral nature of the visit, Mr. Horne was asked to leave the meeting," Dupont said.
Baillargeon, a quiet and unassuming foil to Horne's animated vitriol, said he also attended the meeting and noted that Rozanski never apologized to the family, but instead peppered them with questions.
Dupont maintains this may have been because Horne was being an obstructionist. He also said the meeting at the chancery was never intended to be an "intake," or initial verifying meeting with the family.
"Patti McManamy, who oversees our Office of Child and Youth protection, is a licensed social worker and provides intake for our victims. That's her job, that's why we hired a person with her credentials to fill this important and sensitive role. In this capacity she had offered this victim's family the opportunity to meet and do a proper intake," Dupont said.
He added that the family repeatedly declined her overtures. Baillargeon said the family had become fractured over the crisis and was struggling to find its own common ground.
Whether you regard Horne as a zealot, there is no question about one thing: He is committed and he is persistent.
"I met with these family members; I met with the victim; I met them in groups and as couples. I met with the family many, many times before they met with the bishop. My goal was to get them access to whatever their needs were, not mine," Horne said.
He also said he had a recent meeting with Cardinal Sean O'Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston, and O'Malley apologized.
"He said 'I'm sorry, they dropped the ball,'" Horne recounted, referring to the Springfield diocese.
He also argues that he had to pressure the diocese into releasing Archambault's name after they appeared recalcitrant.
"There is no denying that Mr. Horne was among those who staunchly advocated for the public naming of Rev. Paul Archambault. Others also recommended this," Dupont said. "In the end, Bishop did exactly what Mr. Horne advocated."
Horne insists there are other victims of Archambault he is confident will come forward, and he will keep needling Rozanski in the meantime.
|The late Rev. Paul Archambault was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on July 3, 2011. Here, he is pictured at his 2005 ordination. (Republican File Photo)|
"He can't hide behind walls. He can't hide behind Mark Dupont. He can't hide behind God," he said. "I'll stop him in the middle of a church service."
Dupont said the diocese encourages other alleged victims of Archambault or any clergy member to come forward.
"We all share Mr. Horne's hope that if there are in fact other victims, they will now step forward so that we can provide assistance to them. This sad and tragic situation gives us all pause in the knowledge that despite our many efforts, we still have much work to do in making our child protection work more effective," he said.