Lawsuit Links Cardinal to Placing Pedophile Priest in Pepperell, Lowell

By Lisa Redmond
Lowell (MA) Sun
April 10, 2002

Lowell, MA - New civil lawsuits accuse two priests who served in three Greater Lowell communties of sexual abuse, alleging that church leaders knew about the incidents and did nothing to stop them.

A Lowell man says he was abused for four years by the Rev. Richard O. Matte, then at St. Louis De France Parish in Lowell.

And three brothers say they were molested more than 100 times each by the Rev. Mark Fleming, at John the Evangelist parish in Hudson, N.H., in the early 1980s.

In the Lowell case, Derek Mousseau has sued Matte, Cardinal Bernard Law and the Archdiocese of Boston, saying that Law knew or should have known that Matte was allegedly committing sexual predatory acts. The lawsuit says Mousseau was 13 when the abuse began in 1989.

Matte was a school chaplain at the Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood in the early 1970s, According to published reports, school administrators were told Matte had been abusing one student during confessions.

The student who reported the alleged abuse was suspended for starting the rumor about Matte, while the priest continued at the school, reports state.

Mousseau's suit alleges that the church received numerous complaints against Matte. Attorney Roderick MacLeish says that around 1988, Law removed Matte from the Assumption Parish in Bellingham because of complaints of sex abuse. Law was aware of the molestation complaints against Matte while he was at St. Joseph's Parish in Pepperell and while he was assigned to Xaverian, MacLeish says.

Matte was placed on sick leave in 1993, reportedly to receive treatment related to sex abuse of young boys, the lawsuit states. Matte returned to duty in 1996, working in the Boston Ardhiocese personnel office. He has retired.

It is not clear if Matte could face criminal charges. The Middlesex County District Attorney's Office declined comment.

The lawsuit accuses Matte of assault and battery, and Law of negligence. It asks for more than $25,000. Lawsuits filed against the church total in the millions of dollars.

Neither MacLeish or Mousseau could be reached for comment. Donna Morrissey, spokesman for the Boston Archidocese, did not return phone calls. Matte, who is retired and lives in South Dennis, has an unlisted phone number.

In the New Hampshire case, Fleming is accused of "savagely sexually assaulting" all three brothers from 1974 and 1983. They are not identified in their lawsuit.

Their attorney, Mark Abramson, said that in one case, Fleming held one of the boys under water in an apparent display of his power.

The allegation is in one of four lawsuits Abramson filed Monday on behalf of six men who say they were sexually abused by priests. The lawsuits accuse officials of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester of failing to protect the men from the alleged assaults, the most recent of which was in 1983.

According to the lawsuit, most of the assaults against the brothers took place at the church rectory. The lawsuit says another priest at the parish, the Rev. Stephen Scruton, knew of the abuse, did nothing to prevent it, and molested one of the boys himself. Scruton was fired from a job as a counselor for sex offenders at a jail in Massachusetts when the diocese released a list of priests accused of sexual offenses. Scruton does not have a listed telephone number in the state.

Calls to the churches involved failed to turn up anyone who even recognized the names of the accused priests. There is an unlisted number for a Mark Fleming in Manchester, where Abramson said the former Hudson priest lives.

In a written statement, Bishop John McCormack said he was saddened by the reports and committed to helping anyone sexually abused by a priest.

Abramson said the brothers' family reported the assaults in 1983 and the case went to the attorney general's office. Abramson does not know why it was not prosecuted. Assistant Attorney General N. William Delker said he could not comment on the 1983 allegations, or the current lawsuits.

Diocesan spokesman Patrick McGee said that while Fleming has not been defrocked, his right to minister was revoked in 1983 when an accusation was made against him. McGee did not know whether it was the same allegation that prompted the brothers' lawsuit.


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