Former Lowell Priest Was Named in Settled Suit

By Dana Willhoit
Lowell Sun (Lowell, MA)
February 16, 2002

A Lowell native is the latest priest to be linked to the growing scandal of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, being named as involved in a lawsuit settled by the church in the 1990s.

The Rev. Richard Matte, who served at St. Louis Church in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was one of three priests who were named in lawsuits that were unsealed by order of a Suffolk Superior Court on Friday.

The suit accuses Matte of raping a 13-year-old boy while he was serving at St. Joseph's Church in Pepperell in the 1970s.

A parishioner at St. Louis, who asked not to be named, remembered that Matte left very abruptly in the early 1990s. There was no announcement that he was leaving; he was just gone one day, the parishioner said.

Matte grew up in Lowell, and attended St. Louis Church on Boisvert Street as a child.

Ray Chandonnet and his wife Pauline defended Matte yesterday as they left afternoon Mass.

"What happened to being innocent until proven guilty?" Pauline Chandonnet said. If the accusation against him was true, there should have been more people coming forward, Pauline said. She found it suspicious that there was only one victim named.

"I knew him very well. I always liked him. I personally don't believe it about him," Ray Chandonnet said.

He said that with most of the priests named, "These accusations are not proven. I think it's a vendetta right now - digging up things from 40 years ago. It's ridiculous."

Parishioners at St. Joseph's had only good things to say about Matte yesterday.

He was a wonderful priest. I had no problem with him. It's very sad, very unfortunate," Theresa Volpe said

The revelations are just the latest involving the pedophilia within the church:

* Former priest John Geoghan is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy. At least 130 people have accused him of abuse; he faces two more criminal trials and 80 civil lawsuit.

* The Archdiocese of Boston has identified 80 priests accused of pedophilia in the past 40 years. It has come under fire for reassigning accused priests to other parishes.

Among those accused are the Rev. Paul Finegan, who served parishes in Lowell and Chelmsford, and the Rev. James Power, who served in Dracut.

* On Friday, the Diocese of Manchester named 14 retired or suspended priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors. One retired priest named was Albion F. Bulger of Nashua.

Ray Chandonnet said he wasn't defending priests who were child molesters. "That's wrong. It shouldn't be allowed."

He remembered Matte as very happy and outgoing. "He always tried to get the youth involved. When you work with children, you're vulnerable. I was a teacher, and I know how it is. All it takes is one accusation, and you're ruined. What do you do?"


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