With Charges against Epping Priest, Allegations against Clergy Continue to Surface

By J.M. Hirsch
Associated Press
March 20, 2002

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — As Roman Catholics grapple with news that another New Hampshire priest has been accused of molesting a child, state investigators say fresh allegations against other clergy come in daily.

Police in Manchester are investigating the Rev. Ronald Corriveau, who until recently served at St. Joseph Church in Epping. He has been on administrative leave since authorities informed him of the accusations on March 11.

Corriveau served at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manchester from 1978-1982. Patrick McGee, a spokesman for the Diocese of Manchester, said there has been one complaint against Corriveau and it stems from the early 1980s.

But an official familiar with the investigation said authorities are looking in other communities where Corriveau served, and that more allegations may be involved.

Assistant Attorney General N. William Delker would not discuss the specifics of the allegation, but said Wednesday that no charges have been filed and that the investigation is not complete.

In addition to Manchester and Epping, Corriveau also served in churches in Salem, Nashua and Concord.

McGee said the church is not conducting an internal inquiry and is awaiting results of the investigation by civil authorities.

He also said the diocese would not go back to other churches in which Corriveau had served for possible additional allegations because "there really wouldn’t be a process for doing that.

"I think the fact that it’s publicly reported and that the attorney general’s office is doing an investigation would address those issues," McGee said.

McGee said he believes Corriveau is staying with friends or family and did not know how to reach him. An official at St. Joseph Church referred all calls to the diocese, which heads up the Catholic church for the state.

The news comes as Catholics around the country try to come to terms with allegations that dozens of priests abused children, and that church officials may have known about it and done little to protect parishioners.

Following the lead of church officials in Massachusetts, the New Hampshire diocese in the last month has given the attorney general’s office information about 15 priests accused of sexually abusing children from 1963 to 1987.

Only one of the 15 men still was serving in the priesthood at the time the list was released. Rev. John Poirier of Holy Family Parish in Gorham was placed on leave that day.

But Delker said Wednesday that since the list was released, authorities have received allegations against about a dozen other priests, including Corriveau.

"We continue to get new information every day," he said. "Every day people call with new information. It’s been the exceptional day that we haven’t gotten any calls."

Of those, only Corriveau still was serving as a priest. Delker said the others, including several from Massachusetts who may have brought victims to New Hampshire, have retired, left the priesthood or are deceased.

He said the cases have been turned over to the appropriate county attorneys to investigate, though the statute of limitations may have lapsed for some of them.

"A number of the accusations are older cases," he said. "We continue to look at those cases closely because there may be issues where the statute of limitations may have stopped running," making a prosecution still possible.

New Hampshire church officials have held meetings with parishioners around the state in recent weeks, urging them to come forward with any allegations or concerns.

Manchester Bishop John McCormack spoke at all Masses at Corriveau’s St. Joseph Church last weekend, informing parishioners of the charge.

The Rev. Daniel Lamothe of St. Joseph Church in Salem, where Corriveau served from 1974-1976, said those who remember Corriveau speak fondly of him.

"I personally know Father Ron Corriveau and I feel he’s done a very good ministry in his church in Epping," Lamothe said. "He’s very well liked there."

Lamothe said he has no plans to investigate Corriveau’s time at his church, saying he prefers to focus on the future by praying for the victims and the accused, and increasing awareness about the need to protect children.

"That’s the approach we’ve been taking, a more positive approach of instead of looking into the past, doing something to protect children now and in the future," Lamothe said.

In addition to his time in Salem and Manchester, Corriveau served at St. Joseph Church in Nashua in 1977, St. John the Evangelist in Concord in 1983, St. Christopher in Nashua in 1984 and St. Aloysius Church in Nashua in 1985 before being assigned to St. Joseph in Epping later that year.


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