Suits by 2 Men Accuse Priest of Molesting Them
They Say the Rev. Michael Lamountain, Former Pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in West Warwick, Molested Them When They Were Boys
By Barbara Polichetti
December 19, 1995
Two men yesterday filed Superior Court lawsuits alleging that they had been sexually molested as boys by the Rev. Michael LaMountain, a Roman Catholic priest and former pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in West Warwick.
James Egan, 25, and Dan Turenne, 19, announced their lawsuits in an emotional news conference at the home of Frank and Sara Fitzpatrick of Cranston, leaders of a support group for victims of pedophile priests.
No criminal charges have been filed against Father LaMountain, 46, but Bishop Louis E. Gelineau, who suspended him from his priestly duties in March, said yesterday that the Diocese of Providence was cooperating with a state police investigation.
The lawsuits allege that Father LaMountain molested Egan and Turenne and that the diocese was aware that the priest committed sexual misconduct but did nothing to halt it. Besides the priest, the lawsuits name as defendants the diocese, Bishop Gelineau and former Auxiliary Bishop Kenneth A. Angell.
Yesterday, standing near a Christmas tree in the Fitzpatrick family's living room, Egan spoke haltingly, appearing near tears, as he talked of LaMountain and the Catholic Church. "I have been orphaned by my Church through LaMountain's deceptive, egocentric and careless actions. . . ." he said.
Egan described emotional problems he has suffered as the result of the alleged sexual abuse and how the stress forced him to leave his job as a public school teacher.
In March, in an unusual move, Bishop Gelineau personally notified parishioners of St. John the Baptist, at three Sunday Masses, that Father LaMountain was being removed as pastor because of "serious" allegations of sexual misconduct.
At the time, no alleged victims were identified, but church officials said that police were investigating.
In a statement issued late yesterday afternoon, Bishop Gelineau expressed sympathy for Father LaMountain's alleged victims.
"I am saddened that still more people have apparently been victimized by this terrible sickness," Gelineau said. "If Father LaMountain is guilty of this misconduct then he must answer for what he has done, as must all others who may be found guilty of such charges."
A spokesman for the diocese said that Father LaMountain had been assigned to a residence for retired priests that is affiliated with St. Joseph Church on Hope Street in Providence.
Efforts to reach Father LaMountain for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.
At the plaintiffs' news conference, both men read statements. They declined to answer questions afterward.
Egan said he was 14 when he was first sexually abused. His lawsuit alleges that the abuse began in 1983 or 1984 and continued through the summer of 1988. Egan said he was molested by the priest "in various locations in Rhode Island and on trips in and outside of the United States."
Turenne, a former altar boy at St. John the Baptist and student at the parish school, said he was first molested at age 13. His lawsuit, like Egan's, makes reference to his and his family's faith and trust in Father LaMountain and recounted denial, depression and other emotional problems he has struggled with since the alleged sexual abuse.
"I trusted Father Mike LaMountain because he was our priest and pastor, and he became my friend," Turenne said. "I wish I could put into words the pain and confusion that I felt being abused and manipulated. . . . I was raised in a Catholic family and I was taught to trust and respect, confide in and follow after priests. I thought Father Mike knew things as a priest that other people didn't understand and I believed that Bishop Gelineau would not make a dangerous man our pastor at St. John's."
Sara and Frank Fitzpatrick run the nonprofit organization Survivor Connections. Frank Fitzpatrick, who was the victim of sexual abuse by a priest, James Porter, said that making public statements is an important step in the recovery process for abuse victims.
Bishop Gelineau said in his statement that the diocese continues to offer pyschological counseling to victims but that, "unfortunately, very few plaintiffs are taking advantage of our offer . . ."
Father LaMountain was well known in West Warwick, where he was almost universally referred to as "Father Mike." He served as chaplain to the town's Police and Fire Departments and often gave the blessing at the annual Town Meeting and at other municipal events.
He still retains ties to the community and is often seen in town visiting friends or bowling on Friday nights.
As Egan and Turenne took turns facing reporters, television cameras and bright lights yesterday, their families clustered in the doorway of the Fitzpatrick's kitchen, hugging one another and weeping silently.
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