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  Goffstown Man Alleges Assault, Suing NH Priest

By Nancy Meersman
Union Leader
May 24, 2002

A Goffstown man sued the Rev. Ronald E. Corriveau yesterday, alleging the Roman Catholic priest got him drunk in 1982 when he was a 15-year-old St. Francis of Assisi parishioner and fondled him while he was unconscious.

John A. Moody, 35, of 50 Ginger Drive, Goffstown, claims several minors were drinking heavily at a party Corriveau threw at the south Manchester rectory in February 1982 when the assault allegedly took place.

Corriveau was assigned to the church, which has since moved to Litchfield, from 1978 to 1982. The Manchester Diocese put Corriveau on leave as pastor of St. Joseph Church in Epping in March after Manchester police began investigating him for an alleged sexual assault.

Attorney Peter Hutchins confirmed yesterday that the criminal investigation began in response to his client Moody's complaint.

The lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Manchester says Corriveau "provided substantial amounts of alcohol to the minors, which he had apparently done on numerous prior occasions" and Moody "consumed alcohol to the point where he passed out."

It alleges the boy "woke up, clothed in a robe that was not his, with the defendant behind him, reaching around fondling him."

The 15-year-old "rolled around until the defendant got up and walked out of the room. The plaintiff located his clothes which had been removed from him while he was asleep," the suit says.

Moody claims that after he was abused he began drinking and suffered from alcoholism and drug abuse until 1992, and he still suffers from nightmares, anxiety and depression, for which he is getting treatment.

Hutchins said Moody, a truck driver, husband and father, was not ready emotionally to discuss the case publicly.

Corriveau could not be reached yesterday. The Diocese of Manchester said it is not providing legal representation in cases against individual priests.

Hutchins is seeking $ 250,000 in attachments on properties in Belknap which he alleges Corriveau "fraudulently transferred" to relatives within days of finding out he was being investigated.

"This demonstrates the savvy of these people who once they get in criminal trouble the first thing they do is get a lawyer to draft a quit-claim deed to transfer their property," he said.

According to documents filed with the lawsuit, Corriveau transferred three tracts in Belknap to Paul Corriveau and Theresa M. Corriveau, 9 Edson St. Nashua, on March 15. Hutchins said the priest was notified March 11 of the criminal investigation.

Hutchins has petitioned the court to declare the transfer "to be null and void as a fraudulent conveyance" under New Hampshire statutes.

He alleges the transfer "took place after the defendant learned that he was the subject of a criminal investigation for sexual abuse of a minor." An attachment is also sought against any interests Corriveau may have in the home at 9 Edson St. occupied by Paul and Theresa Corriveau. Reached by telephone, Mrs. Corriveau she hadn't heard anything about the legal matter and she did not know where Father Corriveau was. The lawsuit lists 9 Edson St. as his address.

Hutchins said he has secured a $ 500,000 attachment against the Sanbornton home of another defendant in a civil lawsuit -- Father George Robichaud, who has been charged criminally with assaulting a 15-year-old boy.

Robichaud was relieved of his pastoral duties at both St. Cecilia in Wolfeboro and St. Joan of Arc in Alton in April. Faced with the prospect of being questioned under oath, Hutchins said Robichaud chose not to fight the attachment.

Hutchins said Moody has been questioned once by the Manchester police and once by the Hillsborough County Attorney's Office about Corriveau.

County Attorney Peter McDonough said the investigation is "ongoing" but no determination has been made as to whether the priest should be, or could be, prosecuted. "It's being investigated at the present time by Manchester police," McDonough said. "The department is looking into all possibilities and leads in this case and they will keep us informed."

Hutchins said Corriveau's behavior fits a familiar pattern. "He was moved a lot. He was transferred four times in three years. He was in seven different churches between 1975 and 1985 when he ended up in St. Joseph's in Epping where stayed until this year," Hutchins said.

"All that movement seems to raise a red flag . . . It could mean he had problems in these various parishes."

The Manchester lawyer said many abusers have played the "pied piper" to teenage boys, buying them alcohol and fraternizing with them.

The alleged assault on Moody, he said, happened when the pastor, Father Jack Horan, was away on vacation. He said his client told him that a cleaning lady had complained to the pastor that there were pornographic homosexual magazines on open display in the rectory's magazine rack.

Most of the lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests have named the Manchester Diocese as the defendant. The church is expected to fight the expanding number of cases on several fronts, including the statute of limitations.

Hutchins contends that it did not start to run until Feb. 15 this year when the diocese released a list of 14 priests who had been removed from their positions after complaints of sexual abuse had been made against them.

The Moody lawsuit contends, "It was not until that time that the plaintiff discovered and recognized the fact that he was injured by this sexual abuse, and that his injury was caused by the wrongful conduct of the defendant, as well as others in the Diocese of Manchester . . . who failed to protect him and numerous other apparently victims of sexual abuse of minors by New Hampshire clergy . . ."

Hutchins said 42 individuals, including Moody, have signed onto a separate lawsuit, which names the Roman Catholic Bishop of Manchester as the defendant and which he is seeking to have certified as a class action.

He said many defendants have joined the lawsuit because they do not have to reveal their identities in the early stages.

 
 

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