Woman Sues Priest, Says He Fathered Child
In Court Records, the Woonsocket Native Describes How the Rev. Monsignor Louis Ward Dunn Befriended Her and Allegedly Sexually Assaulted Her in 1965
By Mike Stanton
May 23, 1997
Thirty years ago, a young Woonsocket woman gave birth in Los Angeles to a darling baby girl. She weighed 7 pounds, 1 ounce, had brown hair, alert brown eyes, a fair complexion and a happy disposition.
The woman, who was 21 and wanted to be a nun, had the child baptized Mary Louise and gave her up for adoption. She saw the baby just twice over the next few days, never holding her, she says, to ease the pain of separation.
Yesterday, the woman, Lucille Suzanne Farr, returned to Rhode Island to reveal a secret she says she has lived with for three decades: that the father of her child was a Roman Catholic priest who plied her with drugs and alcohol, seduced her, raped her, sent her to California to have the baby alone and then put it up for adoption.
Farr, 50, of Santa Rosa, Calif., hasn't seen Mary Louise, who would have turned 30 in March, since.
The priest, the retired Rev. Monsignor Louis Ward Dunn of Providence, was indicted by a Rhode Island grand jury last year on charges that he raped Farr in 1965 and that he sexually assaulted another young woman in 1982.
Farr, who will testify at Monsignor Dunn's criminal trial set for next month, went public with her story yesterday, filing a civil lawsuit against him and the Diocese of Providence, which she accuses of ignoring warnings of the monsignor's "inappropriate and criminal behavior involving young girls."
Monsignor Dunn, 76, was relieved of his duties as pastor of St. Thomas Church in Providence in 1994, following allegations of sexual misconduct by another woman. He lives near St. Thomas today, in the city's Mount Pleasant neighborhood, in a retirement home for priests.
Farr, a retired schoolteacher, says the experience traumatized her, driving her away from Rhode Island and forcing her to abandon her faith and her aspirations to become a nun. Publicity about recent civil suits against Monsignor Dunn prompted her to come forward, she says.
Diocese spokesman William Halpin said he was unaware of church leaders having knowledge of alleged wrongdoing by Monsignor Dunn until recent years. He noted that Bishop Louis E. Gelineau relieved the monsignor of his priestly duties in 1994 when he heard the first allegations, and that the diocese is cooperating "as fully as is possible" with law enforcement.
In court records and interviews, Farr described how Monsignor Dunn, then pastor of Christ the King Church in South Kingstown, befriended her, hired her to work in the rectory, then allegedly sexually assaulted her after she began attending the church as a University of Rhode Island freshman in 1964.
In the spring of 1966, about a year after the sexual assaults allegedly started, Farr says she became pregnant with Monsignor Dunn's child. The monsignor arranged for her to see a doctor in Providence under an assumed name, she says, then sent her to California, where she told her parents she was studying to become a nun.
After she had a girl on March 1, 1967, Farr says, Monsignor Dunn expressed disappointment that it wasn't a boy, so he could name it Louis after himself. Farr says he told her to name the child Mary Louise.
Another woman who worked at Christ the King, Kathleen Moriarty Crist, is expected to testify at the criminal trial that Monsignor Dunn told her he fathered Farr's child. In a recent letter to prosecutors, contained in court records, Crist said she planned to visit Farr in California during URI's winter recess in 1966-67.
"(Monsignor Dunn) told me that visiting her would not be possible because Lucille had gone to California because she was pregnant with his child," wrote Crist. "Lucille's pregnancy was a frequent topic of conversation between Monsignor Dunn and myself."
During that time, the then-chairman of URI's Department of Education, Thomas Moriarty, says he complained about Monsignor Dunn "on more than one occasion" to the Rev. Monsignor Daniel P. Reilly, then the diocese's chancellor and now the bishop of Worcester, regarding Monsignor Dunn's "inappropriate and criminal behavior involving young girls."
Monsignor Reilly responded that this was "a standing problem with Dunn," Moriarty says in a sworn court statement. Moriarty says Monsignor Reilly subsequently told him that Monsignor Dunn would be transferred and that "this would take care of the problem."
After Monsignor Dunn moved to St. Thomas in September 1967, Moriarty said he learned that "the problems" had continued and met again with Monsignor Reilly, who said, "What do you expect me to do? If I were to put him in jail (young girls) would go to visit him."
A spokesman for the Worcester diocese said Bishop Reilly was out of town and unavailable for comment.
A DEMURE WOMAN in a black suit and skirt, white blouse and pearl necklace, Farr arrived at the federal courthouse in Providence shortly before 9 a.m. yesterday with her husband, Kenneth Farr, and her two lawyers.
Later, riding to WPRO to appear on the Mary Ann Sorrentino radio talk show, she explained why the teenage Luci Forcier tolerated the sexual assaults.
"(Monsignor Dunn) always said that God would never think love was wrong," she said. "It's very hard for me as a 50-year-old to forgive that 18-year-old for being so naive. I was the good Catholic girl. I wanted to be a nun. I thought he was the holiest man I'd ever met."
Farr elaborated in a letter to prosecutors: "Looking back over 30 years, it is difficult for today's person to consider the prevalent attitudes towards the Church and its priests. I was expected to obey the priests, nuns and God's word. My relationship with Dunn was a natural extension of that authority."
Farr said Monsignor Dunn was able to control her through a mixture of his power and her faith, confusing her by "mixing sexual activities with my desire to love God." He also gave her various drugs and alcohol, she says.
Frequently, he made the sign of the Cross with his thumb on her forehead before violating her, she says.
In her letter to prosecutors, Farr described the first time Monsignor Dunn allegedly assaulted her. They were drinking Asti Spumante champagne in his private sitting room at the rectory one night, she wrote, and after massaging her he suddenly rose and approached her.
"He had a loving, priestly look on his face," she wrote. "He made the Sign of the Cross on my brow and began backing me towards his bedroom and his bed. A sense of alarm came over me, but I was unable to cry out or struggle."
He then pushed her onto the bed and raped her, she wrote.
"After that, I was totally under his control," Farr said yesterday. "There was nothing he asked that I didn't do."
After she became pregnant, Farr says, Monsignor Dunn staged a mock wedding ceremony in the church and gave her a wedding ring.
"He told me that he could never really marry me because he was married to the Church and couldn't leave his flock," she said.
Farr says that Monsignor Dunn paid for her plane ticket to Los Angeles and arranged for her to go to St. Anne's Maternity Hospital. She used an alias she says he had chosen: Elaine James.
According to hospital records filed in court, Elaine James listed her address in Rhode Island as that of Farr's parents in Woonsocket.
Farr says she told her parents she was going west to do apostolic work for the Sisters of Social Service; she told her family of the baby only in recent years.
Monsignor Dunn's name appears on the hospital form as the person to contact in case of emergency.
Farr lived in a $ 5-a-night hotel until the hospital found her a private family to live with; she did housework to help pay expenses.
A social worker's notes of meetings with Farr during her pregnancy describe her as an intelligent young woman, confused and ashamed, adamant about not identifying the baby's father. She described him only as a teacher, single, with "no possibility of marriage," according to the notes.
"The baby is her greatest concern and she is giving child back to God," the notes say. "She wept & admitted the hurt in parting with child."
When she returned to Rhode Island, Farr says, Monsignor Dunn didn't want it known that she was back yet to avoid raising suspicions. So she says he hid her in the choir loft of Christ the King Church for a brief time.
The sexual assaults continued, she said, until Monsignor Dunn was transferred to St. Thomas in September.
Farr graduated from URI in 1969 and moved to California. Shortly thereafter, she says, she walked out of church in the middle of Mass one day and never went back.
She became a special education teacher and married another teacher, Ken Farr, in 1976; they have a 19-year-old son, Sean, and are retired, dividing their time between their northern California farm and a home in Alaska.
For years, her husband says, she blamed herself for what happened and still spoke respectfully of Monsignor Dunn. It was only after she read news reports of recent lawsuits against him that she decided to act.
Early last year, while in Rhode Island to testify before the grand jury, Farr and her husband briefly confronted Monsignor Dunn at his residence. She says he appeared stunned when she introduced the monsignor to her husband as the father of Mary Louise, but had little to say.
Farr says she recently signed papers allowing the Los Angeles adoption agency to give her name to her daughter, if the woman asks. Since it was a "no-contact" adoption, Farr has no legal right to find Mary Louise.
"Because I didn't allow myself to grieve then, the sense of loss now is very immediate," she said.
Passing by some girl's shoes in a store recently, "I came apart."
Noting that adopted children usually search for their real parents only if they have problems, Farr said, "I'd like to know she's all right, but I hope she's so all right that she's not interested in contacting her birth mother."
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