A list of priests’ names that’s far too little, far too late
By Ray Duckler
August 3, 2019
David Ouellette was fooled once, as a 15-year-old victim growing up in Rochester.
He wasn’t fooled last Wednesday, though. He read the list, released by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, the one documenting priests who had been accused of sexually abusing children for decades. He noticed names, parish assignments, punishments handed out.
Ouellette wanted more details, though. He says he won’t get fooled again.
“Personally,” Ouellette told me by phone, “I think of it as a smokescreen and a public-relations campaign.”
Where, for example, was the information about specific crimes committed, and how many victims stepped forward with accusations, and why were many of these suspected predators merely shifted from church to church in a cover-up that impacted the entire world? Most importantly, where are they now?
“It really doesn’t tell you anything,” Ouellette said, referring to the list.
His wounds remain raw, first described publicly four years ago in our series on church abuse in New Hampshire and the resulting cover-up. Ouellette, who tends bar part time at the Holiday Inn in Concord, explained then that a priest named Father Joseph Maguire had sexually assaulted him in the 1970s, during overnight outings in the church rectory.
He was in high school, vulnerable, naive, impressionable, taught that church officials were more than God-like individuals, telling me in late 2015, “In my family, they were God.”
Maguire died in prison 14 years ago, convicted of raping three altar boys in Dover through the 1970s. A few years later, Ouellette was trapped in Maguire’s web of manipulation, leaving him to wonder in later years why this priest hadn’t already been charged and incarcerated before he got to him.
“Why did we keep pushing him to another parish?” Ouellette said. “Where do (abusive priests) live now?”
The Maguire cover-up directly affected Ouellette, who formerly worked at the Concord-based New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities. And after years of hidden pain, he agreed to talk to me back in 2015. Then, trying to lessen the impending shock the news would have on loved ones, he had to explain to his children and co-workers what had happened to him before my story ran.
His daughter broke down, asking her father, “Dad, why would they do that to you?”
Good luck answering that one.
Meanwhile, other victims and advocates were equally miffed once the list came out. One critic was David Clohessy, the national leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.
As a child, Clohessy was sexually abused by a priest. In an email, he didn’t mince words when asked to comment on the list. He aimed his response at the New Hampshire church.
“How do you justify hiding these names for years?” Clohessy wrote. “It’s most comfortable and convenient for you to sit on this crucial information and release it all at one time. But it’s also incredibly callous and reckless.”
Clohessy said he’s viewed nearly every similar list of names released across the country.
“It’s remarkable,” Clohessy wrote, “the lengths to which bishops will split hairs and make excuses and leave off names of even serial predators.”
Along with Ouellette, Clohessy played a big role in helping me gather information for our series. In a shocking post on his website 3½ years ago, he said a former priest named Mark Fleming – who admitted to molesting three brothers in Hudson in 1983 and was barred from having contact with children younger than 16 – seemed to be working at the South Parish Unitarian Church in Charlestown.
That left open the possibility that Fleming was communicating with children, which, if true, would have landed him behind bars.
Reached by phone at his home in Manchester, Fleming said that he had worked at the church “for quite some time.” He said officials knew about his past. He said children were not part of the congregation.
Pressed further, Fleming hung up, and the Monitor was not able to confirm his role at the Charlestown church. But Fleming had become an example of all that could go wrong in our justice system.
He served no jail or prison time, benefiting from the fact that the brothers’ father refused to press charges, citing the shame and embarrassment it would have meant for the boys. He was told he’d be free as long as he had no contact with teens 15 and younger.
Recently, Fleming’s name surfaced again, brought to my attention by Brian Harlow of Concord, another victim of the church sex-abuse scandal. I spoke with Harlow for our initial series, but he declined to be named at that point in his life, too ashamed to come forward.
This time, for the record, Harlow told me that he saw what looked to be Fleming recently at a Concord restaurant. Stunned, he didn’t approach him, but he wanted to make sure I knew.
“He walked in front of me and it just blew me away,” Harlow said.
Days later, Fleming’s name was included on a list by the Manchester Diocese, along with the names of 72 other former priests who sexually abused minors.
And for Ouellette, SNAP and a great local therapist have helped him put the pieces of his life together, or at least start to, despite a recent divorce and loss of his full-time job.
He tends bar and teaches a course in human relations at New Hampshire Technical Institute. He’s had to learn to ignore his unjustified guilt, the feeling that he, not Father Maguire, was responsible for what happened to him all those years ago.
He’s also trying to come terms with the list released last week. The one missing key information. The one that could have been made public years ago.
“Why was the list created in 2019?” Ouellette asked. “Where was this list 10 or 15 years ago?”