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  Book Investigates Cases
Sexual Abuse by Priests Called

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
November 16, 1992

The House of Affirmation in Hopedale, a now-closed mental health treatment center for priests and religious, figures prominently in Jason Berry's new book about Roman Catholic priests who molest children.

The Rev. Gilbert Gauthe, a Louisiana priest in Vermilion Parish who sexually abused numerous children before he was charged with 34 counts of molestation in 1984, was sent by his bishop to Hopedale for treatment while he was awaiting trial.

The scope of Berry's investigation is presented in "Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children," which was published by Doubleday last month.

"It's a national disgrace," Berry said in a recent interview. He said he knows of 400 priests in North America who have molested children, but the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a Washington, D.C., canon lawyer, said the number could be as high as 3,000 priests. "I wrote the book to put forth the voice of conscience," Berry said.

Berry said he questions how American bishops can "proclaim the sanctity of life in the womb and recycle priests who molest children?"

Gauthe was pulled from the House of Affirmation by his defense lawyer, F. Roy Mouton, who was appalled to find that the staff intended to release Gauthe so he could take an ambulance job in Gulport, Miss.

Berry said Mouton thought while flying here to meet with Gauthe that he was going "to meet Lucifer disguised as a Roman Catholic priest." Gauthe's therapist, Sister Miriam Ukeritis, described Gauthe as "like a dependent child."

"Mouton exploded: Jesus Christ, lady! Did she know that hundreds of sex crimes had made him eligible for life at hard labor in Louisiana's penitentiary. She insisted that he was making good progress," Berry writes of the encounter.

Berry said Mouton recognized the church was open to criminal negligence, if Gauthe was released, so he had Gauthe moved to a locked unit at the secular Institute of Living in Hartford.

Gauthe told Mouton, "I hated myself for what I was doing, but what I hated more was that I didn't have the power to stop it ... and I would see kids that I had had sex with come to communion, and I'd say, "How can I do that?' And then I'd see other kids I'd want."

The House of Affirmation, which Mouton told Berry was like "a country club," was founded in 1970 by then Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan of the Worcester Diocese, and priests, sisters and brothers from throughout the country were sent for treatment. The House became the center of controversy in 1987 when a co-founder, the Rev. Thomas A. Kane, was accused of financial wrongdoing. It closed in 1990, never fully recovering from the scandal.

Berry, a freelance journalist, said it is not easy writing about priests accused of molesting children, but he believes the church must be "held accountable." He is a practicing Catholic and graduate of the Jesuit-sponsored Georgetown University.

The institutional church so far has put more effort into meeting the needs of priests accused of sexually molesting children than it has in helping the victims, he said. "This has to be faced in an honest way," he said.

The church must "be more humane" and listen to the victims of priests, and the church must better "espouse the message of Christ," if it is to grow as an institution, he said.

Berry said Gauthe's superiors knew of his record of abuse, but chose to move him from parish to parish rather than remove him from situations where he would be near children.

Berry said he can better understand the pathology of priests who sexually abuse children than why church leaders would systematically cover up for these priests, knowing they would continue to abuse children.

"I had no idea of the magnitude of the problem," he said.

Priests in the Worcester diocese also have been charged with sexually abusing children. A grand jury recently indicted the Rev. Joseph A. Fredette, a former Assumptionist priest, on charges that he raped two boys in his care when he was executive director of the Come Alive program in the 1970s.

A grand jury also recently indicted the Rev. Ronald D. Provost on charges he took a dozen photographs of a 10-year-old boy in various stages of undress.

The Rev. Robert E. Kelley in 1990 was sentenced to 5 to 7 years in the state prison at Walpole after he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a young girl while he was pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Gardner.

 
 

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