One Priest's Uncontrollable Urge to Molest

By Teresa Mask
Chicago Daily Herald
October 4, 2002

He resigned in 1993 because, even after 14 years of treatment and two reassignments, he realized his reason for being a priest was warped - it gave him access to young boys he couldn't resist the urge to molest.

Today, after a heart attack, years of soul searching, the recovered memory of being abused himself, and the threat of a lawsuit from a man claiming to be one of his victims, Cloutier, 53, has decided to make a public confession.

He admits to three instances of abuse in 1979, and he wants to do penance for his crimes and to bring peace to his victims.

One of them, Matt Dalton of Berwyn, says the man he came to know and respect as "Father Bill" abused him on at least three occasions in the mid-1980s when he was a student at St. Peter's Catholic School in Skokie, where Cloutier was associate pastor.

Dalton said Cloutier, now living in Skokie, should pay for what he did to him and go to jail.

"This guy is still on the street," Dalton said. "He says he's not a danger anymore, but I doubt that.

"I can't even say that it's an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth," Dalton said. "You can't replace the innocence he has stolen."

But it's unlikely Cloutier will be subject to any earthly justice. A prosecutor for the Cook County state's attorney's office said Cloutier was investigated in the '90s and no charges were brought against him. He said the statute of limitations has now run out on a criminal prosecution.

For his part, Cloutier says he can only offer an apology.

"I think I owe it to the people I abused and people who have been abused by people like me," he said. "I'm not one of the big huge serial abusers with hundreds of cases and all that. But still the fact is I believe I owe it to people I have hurt, and in particular I think I owe it to Matt."

The irony, however, is that Cloutier is taking responsibility, though he doesn't clearly recall abusing Dalton, now 29.

"With Matt, I'm not sure, but it's entirely possible," he said.

He looks down at Yorrick, the black cat sitting on his lap. He looks up again.

"I don't have a memory of abusing him. I don't. At least not a vivid memory of anything like that. And it scares me because it's possible that I did anyway," he said.

"I don't think it just came out of nowhere that he remembers it. That's a memory I've got to recover."

Still, he has apologized to Dalton and now is speaking publicly about his life as a priest, his fear of being around young boys and his journey toward healing.

He speaks softly with a slight stutter and a voice of contrition.

"I perceive (my speaking out) as something that is important to (Dalton) right now in his healing process. He has a lot of anger he's working through," Cloutier said.

"I'm hoping that by doing this that I will assist him to at least work through this."

Cloutier knows all about trying to work through it.

Since 1979, he has been in therapy almost weekly. Still, he doesn't trust himself to be around young boys.

He's afraid he might do what he did back in 1979. And perhaps in the 1980s with Dalton.

On Memorial Day 1979 he made advances to a 19-year-old seminary student. While contact occurred, he thought the encounter was consensual, and he felt bad about it.

"Right away I knew I was doing wrong," he said. "I was acting very compulsively in doing it. I knew it was wrong."

The student told a priest, and Cloutier said he was given a warning.

He said he had had tendencies toward abusing boys in the past but always tried to suppress it.

He didn't know if he could any longer.

So he decided to kill himself.

But couldn't resist first luring two teenage boys from Oak Forest to his cottage about 100 miles southwest of Chicago with the intention of seducing them. This happened the same week he was reprimanded for soliciting the 19-year-old.

"I thought at that point, I'll do this. Then I'll kill myself," Cloutier recalls. "I was wrapped up in the whole thing."

Just as Cloutier was crafting his plan to crash his car on I-57, he got a call from a priest that the boys had contacted police.

The priest arrived and told him, rather than facing criminal charges, he was being sent away for treatment.

"Within several hours I was on a plane to Whitinsville," Cloutier said.

Getting caught saved his life, he said.

He was sent by the Archdiocese of Chicago to the House of Affirmation in Whitnsville, Mass., for six months of residential therapy. The facility no longer exists.

Cloutier said he was in intense individual therapy twice a day and also attended group therapy. He was the only priest there for sexual abuse. Most of the residents were nuns who were there for depression, he said.

After that he continued for a little more than a year with outpatient therapy, while helping at parishes in Worcester, Mass. He said the priests knew of his past.

It was there that he realized the urges for young boys still were strong. He said he tried to stay away from them.

"I was scared of myself," he said. "I was scared of having them around me. Scared of being seen with them."

The priests were aware of his past, but Cloutier says he's not sure that even mattered. "At that point, we were talking the old days as far as the church's approach toward the whole thing," he said. "As far as they were concerned, I was perfectly safe."

He knows there is no cure for what he calls his sickness. All he can do, he says, is try to control the urges.

He learned the best way to control himself was to avoid contact with boys - and that when he did have contact, it was to be in a well-supervised setting. "You don't have people in your room with the doors closed, or you have a window into your room or office, that sort of thing."

He also would keep the door open and let other people know that a boy was going to be there.

Those were the methods he says he used when he returned from residential therapy.

Cloutier said he also was a victim of abuse and, like Dalton, he didn't remember right away.

"I've had enough therapy to know that I've suppressed things in my own life. I suppressed the memory of this priest (who abused me) for a long time."

Cloutier said he was himself abused for several years, beginning in sixth grade, by the priest of his church in Chicago.

He said he was sexually abused and beaten by a priest at St. Peter and Paul Church in Chicago on several occasions between 1959 and 1965, the year his alleged abuser died. Cloutier was a sophomore in high school.

Many of these memories, he said, were recovered when he was spending time at the archdiocese Retreat House at Mundelein Seminary.

He was sent there in 1991 after one of the boys from the 1979 incident in the cottage filed a complaint.

Several of the priests spent their time getting paid for not working at the retreat house. He said he spent his time learning as much as he could about computers.

Then he quit the priesthood.

He's spent much of the last 10 years working as a computer consultant.

"I've been in therapy forever, but reflecting on my experiences as a kid with this priest and realizing all of a sudden that somehow, what I went through with him led me to be a priest," he said.

"It was kind of like, I would have the power he had. There was a power he very much exuded," he said. "I wanted that power."

Therapy is helping him work through many of his issues, he said.

He had been attending weekly until January when he suffered a heart attack. He now is paralyzed in his left hand and right foot. On Thursday, he had a feeding tube removed from his chest.

Having lost 125 pounds because of the illness, he no longer is the 300-pound man his victims may remember.

Since resigning, he said, he has had a choice on whether he will hurt again.

"Since I have been out of the priesthood, the only thing I have around me are cats. I don't deal with kids in any fashion," he said. "It's better for me that way."

Is he afraid that he's a threat to young people? He said he would be "scared out of my wits" to be around young people and wouldn't put himself in that situation.

"I could be (a threat). I have to be aware of that," he said. "Not to control it is to lose my life.

"There is no cure. You can control it. But there is no cure."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.