4 Seek to Join Abuse Lawsuit against Diocese

Union Leader (Manchester NH)
September 7, 2002

A former altar boy and three other individuals have asked the Hillsborough County Superior Court to allow them to join a lawsuit alleging the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester failed to provide a safe environment for the children in its parishes.

Their participation in the suit would bring to 16 the number of plaintiffs alleging they were sexually abused by priests and suing under this one action brought by Concord attorney Charles G. Douglas III.

The church is facing multiple lawsuits, including a potential class-action case, which together involve about 120 plaintiffs. Attorneys for the church and the plaintiffs have been negotiating for several weeks in an attempt to reach a global resolution to the case.

"It's just unfortunate that this continues to come to our attention, and it makes it all the more urgent that the church try to resolve these cases through the settlement process so these folks can get on with their life and their healing," Douglas said.

The four seeking to join Douglas' case are anonymous, going by the names John Doe 13 through 16.

One of the four alleges that as a child in St. Augustin parish, he was forced to have sexual contact with the Rev. Donald Osgood. The plaintiff alleges about 200 assaults took place, occurring weekly for about four years.

At least two other individuals who are suing the church allege they are victims of Osgood, who abandoned his ministry many years ago, according to the diocese.

Another person alleges the Rev. Leo Shea assaulted him when he was an altar boy at St. Anthony Church in Manchester. He alleges Shea would try to hug him and kiss him on the mouth and then began trying to touch him in a sexual manner. Usually, the boy could escape, but Shea managed to hold onto him at least three or four times and sexually assault him, the lawsuit says. The alleged victim says the abuse was so repugnant that he abandoned his faith.

Shea was convicted of sexual abuse in 1994 and served a three- to six-year prison term.

Another of Douglas' clients names the Rev. Francis Talbot, who is also accused in at least three other lawsuits. This person, who as a child was a parishioner at St. Augustin Church, alleges Talbot took him to a swimming pool and forced him to touch Talbot in a sexual manner. The church revealed in February that Talbot's ministry had been revoked.

Another accuser says he was assaulted by a priest in Manchester in 1980-81. The encounters allegedly took place in the priest's car at a recreational field after games.

The priest's name is being withheld because his accuser has not identified himself and the priest has not been named previously by accusers whose names are on the record. This priest, according to Douglas, has been named in other lawsuits by other anonymous plaintiffs.


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