Names of Priests Accused of Past Sexual Misconduct Released

Associated Press State & Local Wire
February 15, 2002

Roman Catholic leaders on Friday gave prosecutors the names of 14 priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors in New Hampshire during the quarter century that ended in 1987.

The Diocese of Manchester, which covers the state, also made the names public.

The report is another black eye for the Boston Archdiocese, which has been rocked by allegations that it turned a blind eye toward sexual assaults by priests.

Among those named in dozens of civil lawsuits in Massachusetts is Bishop John B. McCormack, a top church official in Boston before being named bishop in Manchester in 1998.

"What I report is sad in one way because it is about sin, sickness and crime," McCormack said at a news conference Friday. "And yet in another way it is hopeful news in that our church and community will know that no priest is now serving in ministry who has to our knowledge engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor."

The alleged misconduct was reported to church officials between 1971 and last year.

Of the 14 priests, one - the Rev. John R. Poirier of Holy Family Parish in Gorham - was actively working. He was barred from working as a priest in the community effective Friday. Seven other priests, all retired or previously suspended, received the same discipline in the past.

The remaining six were retired or on sick leave. Effective Friday, they were barred from celebrating Mass.

After meeting with officials from the diocese and consulting county prosecutors, Attorney General Philip McLaughlin said this week he knew of no priests under investigation for sexually abusing children. Friday's report presumably will lead to investigations.

"I would expect that the attorney general, now having the information, will do his duty," said the Rev. Edward Arsenault, diocesan chancellor.

Arsenault said there have been monetary settlements with some of the victims in New Hampshire. He declined to give details.

Three New Hampshire priests convicted in the 1990s of sexually abusing minors were not on the list. The Rev. Gordon MacRae and the Rev. Roger Fortier are serving prison terms. The Rev. Leo Shea received a three- to six-year prison term when he was convicted in 1994. He is retired and living in Danbury, according to the 2001 diocesan directory.

Also not on the list is the Rev. Frederick Guthrie, 65, of Newbury, Mass. He was arrested in November in Nashua and charged with using a computer to solicit a minor.

In Massachusetts, dozens of lawsuits have been filed against priests and the church. Some accuse Cardinal Bernard Law and other leaders of knowing about the abuse but failing to stop it.

Law has apologized for transferring former priest John Geoghan to other churches after learning of accusations against him.

Geoghan is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy. At least 130 people have accused him of abuse; he faces two more criminal trials and 80 civil lawsuits.

Church officials in Massachusetts have scoured records for accusations against other priests. Eighty Massachusetts priests have been identified in recent weeks as having abused children during the past 40 years.

Arsenault said a review of New Hampshire records began last week.

"I met with all of the priests that are on the list yesterday," Arsenault said. "Their reaction was a deep sense of sadness."

McCormack will tell New Hampshire Catholics about the allegations in a letter scheduled to be discussed at churches around the state this weekend.

"Today is a difficult day, but I hope that you will see this painful disclosure in the context of hundreds of years of faithful service by priests to the people of New Hampshire," McCormack said. "I firmly believe with faith in the Lord of Life that our future is full of hope."

The 14 priests are: John R. Poirier, Gorham; Albert L. Boulanger, retired, of Manchester; Gerard F. Chalifour, retired, of Manchester; Robert J. Densmore, retired, of Manchester; Raymond H. Laferriere, retired, of Manchester; Conrad V. LaForest, sick leave, of Winnisquam; Romeo J. Valliere, retired, of Berlin; Paul L. Aube, suspended, of Manchester; Eugene Pelletier, retired, of Manchester; Albion F. Bulger, retired, of Nashua; Joseph A. Cote, retired, of Berlin; Joseph T. Maguire, retired, of Hyannis, Mass.; Stephen Scruton, suspended, of Dover; and Francis J. Talbot, suspended, of Manchester.


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