Former New Bedford priest sued for allegedly sexually abusing a boy in the late 1980s

Standard-Times - SouthCoastToday [New Bedford MA]

August 26, 2022

By Frank Mulligan

A former New Bedford priest is being sued by an Acushnet man who was once an altar boy at St. Anthony of Padua parish for alleged sexual abuse that took place more than 30 years ago when he was 12 and 13 years old. 

The Rev. Richard Degagne is accused of repeatedly sexually abusing Jason Medeiros in a lawsuit that was filed in Bristol County Superior Court on July 18. 

According to the lawsuit, Medeiros was a student and altar boy at St. Anthony of Padua Church from 1988 to 1991, from 12 to 15 years old. He also participated in a Catholic youth group at St. Anthony of Padua Church under the direction of Degagne during that same time.

Degagne allegedly abused Medeiros at least three times in his rectory bedroom and at least two times in his car when Medeiros was 12 and 13. Degagne also allegedly abused him in or near New Bedford during an overnight trip to Maine when Medeiros was 12.

Degagne is one of the three priests whose “credible accusation” of child abuse was substantiated by the Fall River Diocese in December 2021, according to a press release through SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests Network. 

The release states that Degagne was removed in 2019 and will not be returning to work, according to the Diocese at the time, despite the former priest’s repudiation of the allegations.

Medeiros is represented by Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston-based attorney who is internationally recognized for his work and advocacy in behalf of victims and survivors of sexual abuse, including for his work in the Boston clergy sexual abuse cases that led to John J. Geoghan’s successful prosecution in 2002.

Degagne, who was ordained in 1982 and is now in his late 60s, was working with St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford from around 1986 until 1991, according to the complaint detailed in the release. Before being suspended from ministry, he had worked in East Freetown, Attleboro, Fall River, New Bedford, and Taunton, according to the release. 

He presently resides in Brownfield, Maine, but is still listed on the Diocese of Fall River website as “faculties removed,” according to the release.

The three-count lawsuit seeks a jury trial to determine damages, plus award costs and attorneys’ fees, for mental distress and emotional injuries.

According to the SNAP press release, “The courageous victim who presented this case this year has finally ‘aged into’ reporting. He had only turned 20 when the Boston scandal broke. Imagine the countless victims who were like him. By our accounting and since the year 2000, 350 priests have been charged, which represents only 10% of the abuse.” 

The release adds, “Reports from the 1990s will become prevalent in a few more years,” as victims get older and come forward.