Provost Recounts Meeting
Priest testifies Harrington sent him to treatment facility

By Gary V. Murray
Telegram & Gazette
January 24, 1996

[This article was scanned by from a copy in the Sylvia Demarest archive.]

Worcester - The Rev. Ronald D. Provost, a Catholic priest, testified yesterday that he was sent to a treatment center for clergy in the early 1980s after then-Auxiliary Bishop Timothy J. Harrington questioned whether he had taken nude photographs of young boys.

Provost's testimony came during the trial of a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of a Barre boy who was photographed in various stages of undress by Provost in 1992. The suit, filed on behalf of the now 14-year-old boy by his father, seeks monetary damages under an infliction of emotional distress claim against Provost and negligent supervision claims against Harrington and the Worcester Diocese.

Provost was convicted on a criminal charge of soliciting a child to pose in a state of nudity in connection with the 1992 photographs, which were taken in the locker room of an indoor pool in Gardner during a "swim night" organized by Provost while he was pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Barre.

As a result of the 1993 Worcester Superior Court conviction, Provost received a suspended prison sentence and was placed on probation for five years.

Earlier Incident

Provost, who was called as a witness by Nathaniel D. Pitnof, the lawyer for the boy and his father, was asked to recount a meeting he had with Harrington sometime between 1979 and 1981, while Provost was associate pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Worcester.

"I remember the bishop said he was concerned about some pictures and he was concerned that I spent a lot of time with the young and the old," Provost said. "He asked, when I came in, if I had taken any nude pictures of boys."

When Provost was asked by Pitnof how he responded to Harrington's inquiry, objections were raised by Provost's lawyer, Louis P. Aloise and James G. Reardon, the lawyer for Harrington and the diocese. After a brief bench meeting with the lawyers, Judge Raymond J. Brassard told the jurors that Provost was invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Pitnof asked Provost if Harrington had confronted him with an accusation of taking photographs of nude boys. "I would say it was a question," Provost said.

Pitnof then referred to Provost's pretrial deposition in which he answered yes when asked essentially the same question.

Continued Duties

After the meeting, Provost said, Harrington sent him to the House of Affirmation, which Provost described as "a treatment center for religious," for counseling and therapy. He said he was treated there on an out-patient basis for several months and was allowed to continue performing his priestly duties at Mt. Carmel during that period of time.

Pitnof asked Provost if his treatment was for a "sexual addiction." Provost testified that he recalled saying that in his deposition, but went on to say that he did not fully understand that he had a sexual addiction until after he was charged criminally, requested help and was sent to St. Luke's Institute, a psychiatric hospital in Maryland, for an additional several months of treatment.

Under questioning by Pitnof, Provost said he did not recall any diocesan officials ever discussing with him his treatment at the House of Affirmation or any evaluation of him that might have been done there.

When asked by Pitnof why he took the 1992 photographs of the boy "mooning" and in his underwear, Provost said, "I wanted to take one picture of him, just to have one, no reason. " He said he had no sexual interest in taking the pictures.

"This one picture was just going to be a memento of the evening," Pitnof asked.

"That would sound right," said Provost.

Under cross-examination by Reardon, Provost, who was not dressed in clerical garb, said that while he is technically still a priest, he is no longer allowed to serve as one.

"You are now a grave digger, are you not? You dig graves for the diocese? " "Yes, I do," Provost said.

Provost, a Worcester native, served at St. Camillus and St. Bernard's in Fitchburg, among other parishes in the district.

Testimony in the case was scheduled to resume today in Worcester Superior Court.


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