Rev. Jalbert Accuser Steps Forward
Worcester Man Alleges Abuse
By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
February 4, 2003
WORCESTER - Raymond Plante Jr. grew up in a three-decker on Grafton Hill, the son of devout Catholic parents who, like many people in Worcester, struggled with financial problems as they raised their children.
As a boy, Mr. Plante said, he was raped repeatedly by the Rev. Norman Jalbert, a priest who was also a music teacher and guidance counselor at Holy Name Central Catholic High School and who died in 1994.
Mr. Plante, now 39, said he has decided to go public with his story because he believes other victims may exist and he needs to tell people the extent of what happened to him.
He participated Sunday in the demonstration at St. Paul's Cathedral, he appeared on a television interview in front of Holy Name and he has joined and become active in the new chapter of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
"It happened to me and I know it happened to others. It all has to come out," he said. Mr. Plante is the first person to publicly accuse the Rev. Jalbert with sexual abuse.
The alleged rape and sexual abuse of Mr. Plante also involved abuse of the Eucharist, which Catholics believe is the real presence of Jesus Christ in the communion wafer; the Mass, the sacrament of reconciliation; and a violation of the sacrament of matrimony as part of the Rev. Jalbert's overall strategy, he said.
The Rev. Jalbert equated the sexual abuse as "how we do Mass here," Mr. Plante said.
His parents, Raymond Sr. and Therese Plante, were active at St. Joseph's parish on Hamilton Street where the Rev. Jalbert was also pastor, and they did everything they could to raise tuition money for the Holy Name. The Rev. Jalbert, who was also his parish priest, became his guidance counselor and music director.
Mr. Plante said he wanted to stop the abuse but the Rev. Jalbert had information about Mr. Plante's parents' personal and financial difficulties and threatened to use it to destroy their marriage.
"The last thing I wanted was for them to get divorced and he knew it," he said.
His mother worked at the rectory and spoke frankly with the Rev. Jalbert about their struggles, Mr. Plante said. His father, who was active in the parish, went to the Rev. Jalbert for confession.
A sister had also been molested by someone in Worcester and this had upset his parents. Mr. Plante was afraid to add to their burden by revealing another incident, he said.
His first trip to camp on Brownie Pond in Spencer, in 1978 when he was 15, came because the Rev. Jalbert offered to help him with his singing. The youth wanted to perform in the popular musicals at Holy Name.
Mr. Plante, in describing the first time he was abused, said he was taken to the camp, which was a converted horse barn with a large fieldstone fireplace. "It would start with a glass of wine," he said. Mr. Plante suspected the wine was laced with some type of drug because he would become spacey and "unable to move."
Mr. Plante said the Rev. Jalbert would suggest they "do a Mass," talk about adolescent issues he was having with his parents, fondle his genitals and sit on his stomach and chest.
He said there were times that he would be told to take his shirt off and lie on the floor, face up, with his arms outstretched as though he were Jesus on the cross. This was supposed to be a breathing exercise.
Mr. Plante said the priest would put on his stole, a vestment worn during Mass and while administering sacraments, take a Communion wafer out and tell him this was the body of Jesus Christ. He would also make the sign of the cross over his prone body, he said.
At Holy Name, the Rev. Jalbert arranged that he hear Mr. Plante's confession lest he divulge the abuse to another priest, he said.
The alleged rapes happened at night when he was sleeping. Other boys slept over at the camp and he said some incidents occured while they were all in the same bed. "I woke up and he was on top of me raping me," he said.
Mr. Plante sought medical attention and a doctor questioned him at length about "what he was doing," he said. Mr. Plante said he denied any abuse and deflected the doctor's questions.
The rapes continued for about two years, he said, leaving him with physical and emotional difficulties that haunt him today. "I wake up sweating with all the sheets gathered up under me. I have these terrible nightmares about the rapes," he said.
He suffered about a dozen rapes before he finally fought back and threw the priest off him, he said. He left the camp on a winter night and ended up having a car accident on the way home.
Through his therapist, he contacted Worcester Catholic Diocese Office for Healing and Prevention, which he said has been helpful to him. He met last June with Patricia Engdahl, the director; Frances Nugent, the victim services coordinator; and Sister Paula Kelleher of the review committee.
He said they listened to his story and asked what he wanted. He said he was not looking for money or a settlement, but wanted payment for his therapy and medications that he has to take. The payment has been taken care of by the diocese, he said.
As he recalled that meeting, he said he was extremely emotional, cried a lot and at one point found himself on the floor. Ms. Engdahl was also sobbing before the session ended, he said.
Ms. Engdahl said she cannot comment on individual situations that come to her office but she said she is happy to hear that Mr. Plante had a good experience and wishes more people would come forward.
"We only ask that people give us a try," she said. "We will go anywhere at any time and we will meet with anyone. We will talk with victims, we will talk with their families and friends," Ms. Engdahl said. "We really are sincere about that."
The office also arranged for a meeting with Bishop Daniel P. Reilly and it is expected to happen within the next couple of weeks, Mr. Plante said.
The Rev. Jalbert died in May 1994 at age 58.
"He took from me my dignity, my life, my ability to love and my faith. I want my life back. I want to be healthy," he said.
He said his parents and wife, Lynne, have also been supportive. "My wife is a saint because she has stood by me during the bad times," he said.
He attended the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests -- SNAP -- last week. His goal is to reach out and try to help other victims, he said.
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