Times Union [Albany NY]
June 11, 2023
By Brendan J. Lyons
Gary Mercure is serving up to 25 years in a Massachusetts prison. He has been cast as a serial sexual abuser who victimized numerous boys over decades.
A former priest accused of systematically raping and sexually abusing boys at multiple parishes throughout the Albany diocese was recently denied parole and will remain in a Massachusetts prison, where he is serving a sentence of up to 25 years for raping two altar boys.
Public records indicate that Gary Mercure, 75, was again rejected for parole last month, in part, because he continues to claim he is innocent. He was sentenced in February 2011 after being convicted of raping two boys that he drove from New York into Massachusetts during skiing trips. Mercure stands accused of raping many more boys, but New York’s statute of limitations has prevented his prosecution here.
One of Mercure’s former victims, who said he was in the fifth grade in Queensbury when the priest began raping him — and later his younger brother — scoffed at the former priest’s claim of innocence. He noted that numerous men came forward decades after the abuse and told similar stories of how he had raped and sexually abused them as children.
The man, who with his brother had testified as government witnesses at Mercure’s criminal trial, noted the priest had “smirked” at his alleged victims during the trial. Mercure did not testify at his trial or apologize to his alleged victims or their families at his sentencing nine years ago. A judge called him “a common thug” before sentencing him to more than two decades in prison for his conviction on three counts of forcible rape.
“If we really, really wanted to concoct the story, why would my brother and I admit that he never took us across state lines,” said the former Queensbury man, who testified against Mercure but was not one of the victims who had been driven to Massachusetts. “We’re talking about a large group of boys that this happened to prior to even going through puberty.”
He noted that many of Mercure’s alleged victims have suffered from severe emotional distress and battled drug and alcohol addictions throughout their lives.
In 2013, the Times Union reported on the diocese’s once-secret personnel files of Mercure, which were made public through a federal lawsuit filed in Vermont by another Warren County man who had said Mercure had driven him into that state and raped him when he was a child.
The records revealed that Mercure stole money from church coffers and used it to lavish young men and boys with cash, gifts and living expenses as he brazenly maintained a sexually active, homosexual lifestyle for decades. They also show how Mercure used his priesthood to gain the trust of parents whose sons he raped or abused, including on their family vacations and in their homes when he knew their parents were away.
Mercure’s sexual abuse of young boys while working as a priest in Albany, Queensbury and Glens Falls was outlined in often-disturbing detail in the internal records, which indicated his abuse of young boys began as early as the late 1970s, not long after Mercure was ordained as a priest for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.
Although heavily redacted by the diocese’s attorneys, the records portrayed Mercure as a rogue priest who eluded criminal prosecution and was returned to ministry — with no restrictions regarding his contact with children — even after the diocese sent him away for therapy when it was revealed he had a sexual affair with a young man in the early 1990s.
The case in Vermont was later dropped after a federal appeals court ruled that a Vermont-based U.S. District Court judge had erred when he ruled the Albany diocese had strong enough business ties to Vermont to be sued in that state, where the victim’s claim was not time-barred under the statute of limitations.
In 2008, when then-Bishop Howard J. Hubbard sought to confront Mercure about overwhelming evidence that he had sexually abused minors, the priest responded that he was on vacation and could not be reached by telephone.
But Hubbard, in an internal document, had his staff trace the phone number. They learned Mercure was secretly vacationing at a gay resort “where the choice to wear something or nothing is yours … (with) erotic video lounge showing adult male videos.” The document, attributed to Hubbard, summarized the bishop’s decision for removing Mercure from ministry in 2008, including mounting allegations he had raped boys.
“Clearly the evidence shows that Gary Mercure continued to be living an active gay lifestyle, contrary to his promise of celibacy and contrary to the commitment made after treatment several years earlier,” Hubbard wrote. “He had not mended his ways.”
Hubbard had previously declined to comment on his decision to continue communicating with Mercure after his conviction, including visiting him in prison.
John Watkins, who had a sexual affair with Mercure from 1992 until December 1994, told the Times Union a decade ago that he had informed the diocese right after their breakup, and again in 2003, that the much-older priest had an interest in young boys and should not be around children.
Watkins said Mercure preyed on him because Watkins was emotionally vulnerable and had been sexually abused as a child. He also told the diocese that Mercure made him shave his genitals, perhaps to give him a “youthful look.”
Mercure stole money from parishioners’ offerings at St. Mary’s in Glens Falls, Watkins told them, and used the cash to pay for Watkins’ rent and other living expenses. The priest also bankrolled their secret trips to Provincetown, Mass., Watkins said.
The former Warren County brothers who testified against Mercure at his criminal trial told the Times Union last year that Mercure and Hubbard sexually abused the older brother on multiple occasions during encounters at Lake George motels, in the rectory of Our Lady of Annunciation in Queensbury, and in Mercure’s vehicle in Albany.
Terence P. O’Connor, an Albany attorney whose firm is representing Hubbard in numerous lawsuits accusing him of sexual abuse, last year said the bishop emeritus “forcefully denies” their allegations. O’Connor said the bishop claimed he had never met the two men and “never abused anyone, whether it be a minor or an adult.”
Hubbard admitted in a 2021 deposition that the diocese had systematically concealed incidents of child sexual abuse and failed to alert law enforcement agencies when church officials discovered it. He testified that the church’s actions were, in part, intended to avoid scandal and preserve “respect for the priesthood.”
Hubbard, who led the Albany diocese for 37 years, last fall asked the Vatican to permanently remove him from being a member of the clergy.
Brendan J. Lyons is a managing editor for the Times Union overseeing the Capitol Bureau and investigations. Lyons joined the Times Union in 1998 as a crime reporter before being assigned to the investigations team. He became editor of the investigations team in 2013 and began overseeing the Capitol Bureau in 2017. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-454-5547.