Diocese Ignored Priest's Report
Gagnon Cited in 1987 Claim
By Richard Nangle
Telegram & Gazette
March 10, 2003
A Westboro priest says he reported a parishioner's sexual abuse claim against Rev. Jean-Paul Gagnon to his superiors 16 years ago and never heard another word about it until the alleged victim filed a lawsuit over the matter late last year.
Despite the lawsuit, Bishop Daniel P. Reilly has not removed Rev. Gagnon from his post at St. Augustine Church in Millville. Instead, Rev. Gagnon remains on personal leave.
In a January lawsuit deposition, Rev. Steven M. LaBaire also said he rebuffed an attempt by a diocesan lawyer to arrange an informal meeting with alleged victim Timothy P. Staney, who had confided in Rev. LaBaire on the condition of anonymity.
Mr. Staney later cast aside anonymity to file the lawsuit against Rev. Gagnon.
"During the summer of 1987, in the late summer, in a conversation that I had with Mr. Staney, he shared with me in very general terms inappropriate interaction of a physical sexual nature that went on between him and Rev. Gagnon," said Rev. LaBaire, who was assigned to Holy Name of Jesus Church in Worcester at the time. His predecessor there was Rev. Gagnon.
Rev. LaBaire said he immediately reported the allegation to his pastor, Rev. Roland G. Hebert, who he said directed him to report the matter to Rev. Raymond Page, whom he described as vicar of priests.
Testimony from another Staney lawsuit deposition showed that former preseminarian Chad Boisvert said Bishop Reilly removed him from consideration for the priesthood in 1998 after learning that a series of homosexual encounters occurred between Mr. Boisvert and Rev. Gagnon at St. Augustine's in Millville.
Mr. Boisvert, who now works for a Braintree financial company, said he had never been told about any past allegations involving Rev. Gagnon.
Diocesan spokesman Raymond L. Delisle said he could offer no comment on the Staney lawsuit.
After disclosing the allegation of Rev. Gagnon's alleged sexual abuse both to church officials and his therapist, Rev. LaBaire said he was told that Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte was promptly notified. But Rev. LaBaire said he was never contacted by the district attorney's office or any law enforcement authorities.
Instead, he was ushered into a meeting with James G. Reardon, now deceased, who was the diocesan lawyer at the time.
In what Rev. LaBaire described as a "very confusing conversation," Rev. LaBaire recalled Mr. Reardon saying, "Can you create a context or provide a context ... where Mr. Staney might be present and where I might speak to Mr. Staney?"
"I was kind of confused by the whole thing, wondering if there's some kind of conflict of interest here between someone who represents the diocese and with someone who has a complaint against the diocese," he said.
"This was supposed to be an informal contact," he said. "That Mr. Staney would not be aware of Mr. Reardon's connection or his representing the diocese. And so Mr. Staney would just talk to him."
Rev. LaBaire declined to arrange the meeting.
Shortly after reporting the abuse claim against Rev. Gagnon, Rev. LaBaire asked Auxiliary Bishop George E. Rueger for a transfer. Rev. LaBaire related an overall unhappiness with his assignment, including his working relationship with Rev. Hebert.
Bishop Rueger asked Rev. LaBaire to stay on for a few months and offered to set the priest up with a therapist so he could sort out his feelings on the matter. Rev. LaBaire said the therapist told him to leave the parish.
"He said that he had had much experience with rectories in the past, and he said- I remember his words to me, this sounded like one more sick rectory."
Rev. LaBaire noted that during his session the therapist received a telephone call from Rev. Page.
Rev. LaBaire said Mr. Staney claimed the abuse happened when he was 16 or 17 years old at a camp somewhere outside Worcester, "and there Father Gagnon engaged in some physical touching in ways and places on Tim's body that Tim did not approve of or feel comfortable with."
"I did not go any further with him in terms of unpacking the meaning of that," he said.
Rev. LaBaire was questioned by James G. Reardon Jr. of Worcester and Joanne L. Goulka of Stoneham, representing the diocese; Edward P. Ryan Jr. of Fitchburg representing Rev. Gagnon; James J. Girbouski of Worcester representing Raymond Tremblay, another defendant in the suit; and Daniel J. Shea of Houston representing Mr. Staney. The deposition was taken on Jan. 13 in the Worcester offices of lawyer Roy A. Bourgeois.
Rev. Gagnon's lawyer, Edward P. Ryan Jr. of Fitchburg, posed the following question: "And you assume, based on the nature of what he said to you, that he was making reference to sexual contact?"
Rev. LaBaire: "Yes, I did."
Mr. Ryan also asked Rev. LaBaire whether he had a confidential agreement with Mr. Staney.
"He said to me, he said- he said, 'Father, I don't want my world or my life plastered or- I don't want my parents to find out about all this stuff.' "
Rev. LaBaire said he never followed up with Rev. Page, who he said told him he was going to speak to Rev. Gagnon about the allegation and suggest that he stay out of the parish.
Mr. Ryan questioned the nature of the complaint, asking whether Rev. LaBaire could be sure that the allegation concerned sexual touching.
Ryan: "We just had a witness say that touching someone's chest is sexual. So you didn't explore it with him any further, did you?"
LaBaire: "No, I didn't"
Ms. Goulka, a diocesan lawyer, questioned Rev. LaBaire about his claim that Mr. Conte had been notified of the abuse claim.
Goulka: "What, if anything, transpired, as far as you understand it, when your therapist told the district attorney about what Mr. Staney had said?"
LaBaire: "The immediate repercussion was a meeting in the diocesan- I'm sorry, in attorney Reardon's office at Exchange. That's..."
Goulka: Was there anything that the DA did that you ever became aware of?"
LaBaire: "I'm not even sure what the DA did. I have no knowledge of that at all."
Goulka: "How do you know your therapist told the DA anything about Mr. Staney?"
LaBaire: "Father Page told me so."
Mr. Shea, who is representing Mr. Staney, followed up on that point.
Shea: "How is it, again, that you- and I apologize; I may have asked you this- how is it you got the impression that this disclosure to the psychologist was made to the district attorney, as opposed to, let's say, the police or DSS (Massachusetts Department of Social Services) or somebody else?"
LaBaire: "Monsignor Page informed me of that. He informed me that my recounting of the event to the counselor resulted in it being reported to the district attorney."
Shea: "After the meeting with Mr. Reardon and Monsignor Page did anyone from the police department, either the Worcester Police Department or the state police, contact you on this matter?"
LaBaire: "No, not at all."
Shea: "Did anyone from the district attorney's office contact you?"
Shea: "Did anyone from the Department of Social Services contact you?"
Shea: "Did anyone at all contact you?"
LaBaire: "No. Nobody."
And Mr. Ryan questioned Rev. LaBaire about the nature of his conversation with the therapist.
Ryan: "You have no knowledge that this doctor ... viewed your description of what happened to Tim Staney as sexual, from the doctor, right?"
LaBaire: "Exactly, we did not go into him recounting to me and going into detail into what I meant, correct."
Ryan: "He didn't ask for any details at all?"
LaBaire: "He asked me simply- he asked me to recount what the adolescent had told me, and I told him, using as close to the same words as I've used today: 'Inappropriate touching in places and in ways I don't want to be touched. At a camp.' "
Mr. Staney also names religious education teacher Raymond Tremblay in the lawsuit.
Now 32, Mr. Staney alleges forcible rape and other kinds of "lewd and lascivious acts" happened at Mr. Tremblay's residence in Worcester and at Holy Name of Jesus Church and school, 51-55 Illinois St., and at other locations.
According to the suit, Mr. Tremblay used pornography in the abuse. The suit also accused Mr. Tremblay of threatening to discredit and intimidate Mr. Staney and his parents "in the way of careers and social status" if the alleged incidents were made public.
Mr. Staney alleges that Mr. Tremblay began sexually abusing him in 1980 when he was 10. He alleges the abuse continued until he was 15.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Mr. Staney and his parents, Joseph C. and Corinne L. Staney, both Worcester public school teachers.
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