Former Roman Catholic priest out of prison, living in Concord

Associated Press
May 30, 2002

Concord -- A former Roman Catholic priest who went to prison in 1996 for sexually molesting an 11-year-old Salem boy is out on parole and living in Concord. Robert M. Burns served three years of his eight-year sentence before being released, according to the Concord Monitor. He has not violated parole and has drawn no more notice than the city's other 72 registered sex offenders, police said.

His parole will end in March 2004 if he does not re-offend. Until then, he must undergo weekly counseling sessions.

Burns did not respond to telephone messages or a letter from the Monitor seeking comment.

Burns' court files demonstrate the problems facing the Catholic church, which is accused in numerous lawsuits of shuffling known pedophiles from one parish to another, even as they continued molesting children. The church has settled at least five lawsuits with his alleged victims for undisclosed sums.

He admitted in the prison's one-year sex offender treatment program to sexually abusing about 42 boys and young men ages 11 to 22, mostly in Ohio and Massachusetts, the Monitor reported yesterday.

Burns told prison therapists that as a teenager, he was attracted to other boys his own age. He went on to have several homosexual encounters at the seminary, which he entered after high school.

Shortly after he was ordained in 1975, he began molesting boys, he told his therapists.

Burns was banned from serving in the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, after he was accused of molesting a boy in Girard, Ohio, and in 1981 he was sent to the House of Affirmation in Worcester, Mass., and Saint Luke Institute in Maryland for treatment.

Afterward, he was assigned to St. Thomas Aquinas in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston, then St. Mary's Church in the Charlestown section.

Lawsuits claim he molested boys at both churches during the 1980s and early 1990s, and officials at the Archdiocese of Boston are accused of putting him in charge of training altar boys at St. Mary's, despite promising the former bishop in Youngstown that he would not have contact with children.

In 1991, Burns was sent to the Saint Luke Institute again, according to a 1998 lawsuit filed by a former altar boy. But Burns rejected an institute recommendation that he have extensive tests because of the "depth of his impairment," and he was not allowed to return to St. Mary's.

Afterward, he left the priesthood. Church officials never notified law enforcement authorities

However, he was not arrested until he molested the 11-year-old boy in Salem. The boy's mother contacted police, and Burns was eventually indicted on two charges of aggravated felonious sexual assault.

He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four to eight years in prison on each charge. One of the sentences was suspended, and he was released after three years based on his successful treatment of the prison's sex abuse treatment program.

According to court files, Burns "showed sincerity and commitment" during his year in the intensive treatment program, and "developed realistic intervention strategies" to deal with temptation. He also acknowledged he could commit more crimes.


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