Sex Abuse Lawsuit by Eight Men Names Three Priests

Associated Press State & Local Wire
May 31, 2002

Three Roman Catholic priests - including two not previously associated with sex abuse allegations - each molested multiple children, according to a lawsuit filed Friday.

One of the eight victims filing the lawsuit accused the Rev. Leo Shea of molesting him at another priest's funeral around 1970 at St. Anthony's church in Manchester.

"Shea would chase the altar boys around the church, corner them and attack them," the men's lawyer, Chuck Douglas, wrote in the lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court.

"On one nightmarish occasion, Shea sexually molested (the boy) in the church while the altar boy was preparing for another priest's funeral, in the presence of the open casket," Douglas wrote.

None of the men was identified in the lawsuit, which alleges abuse by Shea, the Rev. Philip Breton of Assumption Parish in Tilton, and the Rev. Hubert Mann of St. Charles Parish in Dover.

According to the lawsuit, Breton died in 1984, and Mann died in 1972. Shea did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

Patrick McGee, spokesman for the Diocese of Manchester, said he was not aware of complaints about Breton or Mann, or of any settlement made with alleged victims.

McGee added that because both men are deceased, the diocese would not have included their names on a list released in February of clergy against whom credible allegations of sexual abuse had been made.

Four of the men accused Shea of molesting them during the 1960s and 1970s. Three were altar boys at the time, when Shea served at St. Anthony and Sacred Heart churches in Manchester. The fourth was a Nashua boy.

Shea pleaded guilty in February 1994 to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old altar boy, and was sentenced to three to six years in prison. He now is retired and living in Danbury, according to the 2001 directory of the diocese.

Friday's lawsuit says Shea molested the boys, who ranged in age from 11 to their early teens when the alleged abuse began, repeatedly in the churches and the rectories.

Breton, who also worked at the state Veterans Home in Tilton, is accused of assaulting three boys during the 1970s and early 1980s. According to the lawsuit, Shea abused one of the boys for about four years starting when the child was 11.

Douglas said Breton molested the boys in the church and at a camp he shared with another priest on Lake Winnisquam.

Prior to serving in New Hampshire, Breton served at St. Alphonsus in Beverly, Mass. Douglas said the Archdiocese of Boston received complaints of abuse about Breton during the 1970s, before he moved to New Hampshire.

Douglas said the archdiocese settled a sexual abuse complaint against Breton by a Massachusetts man for $75,000.

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, spokesman the archdiocese, said he is not aware of any complaints against Breton, or of the settlement, but said church officials will look into the matter as soon as possible.

Mann is accused of assaulting a 15-year-old boy during the late 1960s. According to the lawsuit, the alleged abuse began shortly after the boy's foster father died.

It was "a tragedy which Mann exploited by inviting (the boy) to reside with him at the rectory and to sleep in Mann's bed," Douglas wrote. "Mann soon began abusing (the boy), first plying him with alcohol" then assaulting him.


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