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  Teen Testifies against Priest
Photo Session Blamed for Loss of Faith

By Gary V. Murray
Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
January 19, 1996

A 14-year-old Barre boy told a jury yesterday his schoolwork suffered, he spent less time with his friends, he became distrustful of strangers and he lost his faith in God after a priest took photographs of him four years ago in various stages of undress.

The teen's testimony was in connection with a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of the boy by his father against the Rev. Ronald Provost, a Roman Catholic priest; Bishop Timothy J. Harrington, now retired, and the Worcester Diocese.

The trial began Wednesday in Worcester Superior Court and is scheduled to resume Monday.

CONVICTED TWO YEARS AGO

Provost, who was known for his work organizing youth activities, was convicted two years ago on a charge of posing a child in a state of nudity. He had taken photos of the boy during a Jan. 11, 1992, "swim night" at the indoor Greenwood Memorial Pool in Gardner. Provost received a 10-year Concord State Prison sentence, which was suspended for five years with probation.

According to evidence in the criminal case, Provost told police officers investigating the 1992 incident that he had taken a number of photographs over the years of boys with their buttocks exposed and that he sometimes used the pictures for sexual stimulation.

MONETARY DAMAGES SOUGHT

The civil suit seeks monetary damages under an infliction of emotional distress claim against Provost and negligent supervision claims against Harrington and the diocese.

In his opening statement to the jury, Nathaniel D. Pitnof, the lawyer for the boy and his father, said evidence would show how the youth "had his faith in himself, his fellow man and his God taken from him" when he was 10 years old.

Lawyer James G. Reardon, representing Harrington and the diocese, said he expected the evidence to show there was no negligence on the part of his clients and "there has been no damage to this young man. " Lawyer Louis P. Aloise, representing Provost, declined to make an opening statement.

The youth, wearing a white shirt and "Star Trek" tie, testified yesterday that he began attending youth activities at St. Joseph's Church in Barre after his family moved to the town in 1990, when he was in the third grade.

Provost, who organized the activities, routinely took photographs of the children who participated, the boy testified. "Every time I saw him he had a camera in his hand. " LOCKER ROOM INCIDENT

The teen said Provost took photos of him and about a dozen other youths while they were swimming in the pool in Gardner on the night of Jan. 11, 1992. The boy, who described himself as "shy," said he later asked Provost to hold up a towel so he could change out of his wet bathing suit in the locker room without being seen by others.

After he had removed his bathing suit and put on his underpants, he said, Provost got his camera and began taking pictures of him. The youth said he started "goofing around" and "posing for the camera," exposing part of his buttocks for one photograph, flexing his muscles for another and extending his middle finger for a third.

At no point, he said, did he intentionally expose any portion of his genital area nor did he receive any prompting by Provost.

In his opening statement, Pitnof said an adult entered the locker room during the picture-taking session and asked Provost what was going on. Police were later called in to investigate, he said.

The youth said he was eventually called upon to testify before a grand jury and at Provost's trial. When asked by Pitnof how he felt about what Provost had done, the boy said he was "upset.

"He's a priest. He was supposed to be staying within the law. He was breaking it," he said.

THERAPY SESSIONS

The teen said he had difficulty concentrating on his schoolwork while the criminal case was pending. He said he shunned his friends and spent most of his free time alone watching TV. He testified that he stopped attending church after the incident and "basically" no longer believes in God.

The youth also testified that he has been attending weekly therapy sessions with a psychologist for more than a year.

Under cross-examination by Aloise, the youth acknowledged that he initially resisted attending counseling sessions because he did not think they were necessary and that he never asked his parents to file a lawsuit on his behalf.

Aloise also produced school records showing that the teen achieved average or better grades since the incident.

Provost, a Worcester native, served at St. Camillus and St. Bernard's in Fitchburg, among other parishes in the diocese.

The diocese removed him from priestly duties and sent him for treatment after the allegations surfaced against him.

 
 

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