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  Bishop Guertin's Labbe Accused, on Leave

By J.M. Hirsch
Union Leader (Manchester NH)
November 22, 2002

Brother Leo Labbe, president of Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua, denied assaulting the child in 1960 or 1961 at the now-closed Sacred Heart Academy in Andover, Mass.

"I did not do so, nor have I ever sexually abused any student, at any time, in any location," Labbe said in a written statement released to The Telegraph.

"Nonetheless, I hold myself to the same standard that I hold anyone who deals with our children, and I place their safety, welfare, and peace of mind above all else," he said.

Labbe said he placed himself on administrative leave so that the allegation could be investigated.

Lawyer Peter Hutchins, who represents the alleged victim, said his client has yet to decide whether to file a lawsuit against Labbe or the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, the Rhode Island-based religious order that owned the Andover school and still runs Bishop Guertin.

Hutchins, who also represents six other alleged victims of Bishop Guertin teachers, would not disclose the details of the alleged abuse, but said it was not a one-time assault and that his client was about 11 years old at the time. The man, now 53, lives outside Washington.

Hutchins said he was surprised and dismayed by the way Labbe released information about the allegation.

He said details of the alleged assault were provided to Labbe's lawyer almost two weeks ago with the understanding they would use it to reach settlement with his client.

"We tried to show some sensitivity to the situation," he said. "Their use of this information that I provided at their request to develop and issue a press release was a total surprise to me."

Bishop Guertin students said last night that school officials had not told them about the allegation.

Brother Robert Breault, head of the religious order, said he supports Labbe's decision, though it saddens him.

The community needs "to know with certainty that our children are safe," Breault said. "I am distressed, however, that this noble goal comes at the expense of the reputation and the personal rights of a good man."

Two other Bishop Guertin brothers also have been accused this year of abusing former students.

Brother Roger Argencourt left Bishop Guertin in January when Jeffrey Linton, an Afton, Va., man, accused the brother of raping and molesting him as many as 40 times in 1974, once in front of another teacher.

Argencourt, who died in September, admitted to the abuse in court documents, but was not charged because the statute of limitations had expired. He also told police he assaulted another New Hampshire student around the same time.

And Brother Guy Beaulieu is being sued by Kevin Dandley, a Hudson man who says the brother began molesting him when he was 14 while he attended a Catholic summer camp and continued when he later enrolled at the school.

Hutchins said all six of his other Bishop Guertin clients have accused either Beaulieu or Argencourt.

 
 

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