Diocese Distances Itself from Farmington Priest Charges

By Michael McCord
Union Leader (Manchester, NH)
November 1, 1997

FARMINGTON Officials at the Diocese of Manchester said they had no prior knowledge of sexual misconduct concerning Father Roger A. Fortier, the Farmington parish priest arrested Tuesday for allegedly sexually assaulting a 14-year-old male parishioner.

A press release issued Thursday said that "at no time has the Diocese of Manchester received any allegations or complaints regarding sexual contact by Father Fortier with any minor until the present situation. If anyone has such information we urge that the information we urge that the information be brought forward to legal or church authorities." The Diocese, which says it will have no further comment about allegations at the present time, is reacting to questions and concerns about Fortier, who has served at six other parishes in Manchester, Nashua, Plaistow and Rochester since being ordained in 1980. He has been at St. Peter Church since February 1991.

Farmington police arrested Fortier, 51, and charged him with one count of felonious sexual assault, a Class B felony. Fortier was released on $ 20,000 personal recognizance and has a probable-cause hearing on Nov. 12 in Rochester District Court. If convicted, Fortier faces a 31/2- to 7-year prison sentence.

While Most Rev. Francis J. Christian will perform three weekend Masses at St. Peter, court documents reveal that Fortier was scheduled to leave on a trip to Paris tomorrow.

Diocese spokesman Matthew McSorley said a two-week pilgrimage to Holy places in France for many New Hampshire priests has been in the planning for months. But Fortier surrendered his passport as part of his bail agreement.

According to court documents, police seized child pornography when they searched Fortier's rectory residence. Farmington Police Chief Scott Roberge has declined to say what, if any, other items were confiscated.

Police acted after interviewing the boy, who said he often spent Friday and Saturday evenings at the rectory with Fortier. The boy told police investigators that he and Fortier engaged in sexual acts during these visits.

"No priest should have people at that age staying in the rectory. Such behavior is unacceptable and inappropriate," said McSorley.

Diocese officials have been in contact with the family involved and has offered counseling services, McSorley said. And two counselors from New Hampshire Catholic Charities will be on hand at St. Peter Church this weekend to talk to anyone who needs assistance.

McSorley said Bishop Christian plans to address the case at the Masses he will perform today at 4 p.m. and tomorrow at 8:15 and 10:45 a.m.


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