Priest Indicted in Rape
The Charge against the Rev. Alfred R. Desrosiers, 60, Stems from an Incident in 1972, When the Alleged Victim Was 15
By Jonathan D. Rockoff
September 14, 1995
The Rev. Alfred R. Desrosiers, a Roman Catholic priest, was indicted yesterday for allegedly raping a 15-year-old girl in 1972, when she was a parishioner of the Cumberland church where he was an assistant pastor.
The alleged victim, Cynthia Lewis, now 38 and living in Lincoln, filed a lawsuit against Father Desrosiers in February 1994. The suit, still pending in Superior Court, accuses the priest of sexually abusing her repeatedly from 1972 to 1974, while he was assigned to St. Joan of Arc Church.
The indictment handed up yesterday, by a Providence County grand jury, alleges that Father DeRosiers, now 60, raped Lewis in June 1972.
He entered a not-guilty plea in Superior Court, Providence. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Judge Henry Gemma Jr. released him on $ 50,000 bail with surety, ordered him to have no contact with Lewis and scheduled a pretrial conference for Nov. 8.
"We're going to fight the charges," Father Desrosiers' lawyer, James T. McCormick, said after his client entered the plea. "He's not guilty, and we're going to defend it."
Father Desrosiers was suspended by the Diocese of Providence in the spring of 1993, when he was pastor of Our Lady of Victories Church in Woonsocket, after Lewis complained to Bishop Louis E. Gelineau that the priest had sexually abused her when she was a teenager.
Lewis, a mother of two who directs a volunteer program for the elderly in Pawtucket, said yesterday that it was a "relief to see that justice is beginning to start."
Lewis attended the priest's arraignment. She said it marked the first time in "many, many years" that she had seen him. When Father Desrosiers pleaded not guilty, she said, "the words were like knives."
The Providence Diocese's spokesman, William G. Halpin, commented, "It's not a happy day." But he added that Father Desrosiers' indictment was "not unexpected."
Halpin said the diocese has paid for Lewis to receive some psychological counseling. The diocese stopped those payments, and Lewis filed her lawsuit, after the diocese rejected Lewis's request that it pay for her and her children to attend college, Halpin said.
Father Desrosiers, who was ordained in 1961, was a friend of the Lewis family. When Lewis was a teenager, Desrosiers had dined at the Lewis home, swum in their pool and arranged for Lewis to help him tape music for religious services.
In her lawsuit, Lewis accused Father Desrosiers of inviting her to his apartment in the rectory, where he "plied" her with liquor and had intercourse with her. The lawsuit alleged that the assaults occurred as often as four times a week.
When the girl objected to the priest's advances, the lawsuit states, he told her it was his responsibility to teach her about sex, and "that he would only be able to continue to serve the people of God as a result of her being in his life."
Father Desrosiers is the target of another pending lawsuit. That suit, filed by Anita R. Guilbault of Woonsocket, also alleges that Desrosiers sexually assaulted her while he was at St. Joan of Arc Church.
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