The Priest Files; Alleged Molester Steadfastly Refused to Resign from Priesthood

By Robin Washington
Boston Herald
December 4, 2002

In 1975, Robert H. Morrissette was welcomed into the priesthood by Humberto Cardinal Medeiros with the wish that God bless him with "many zealous and productive years in the service of the Eternal High Priest."

A quarter century later, marked by a permanent suspension for admitted sexual misconduct with a minor, archdiocesan officials mince few words in wishing him out of the priesthood - and the church's financial responsibility.

"He has to move off the dime," Bishop William Murphy wrote in 1999, complaining that Morrissette should "stop wasting time and move forward with (his) request for laicization."

Initially assigned to St. Mary's in Lynn, Morrissette served in just two other parishes - Salem's St. Joseph and Assumption in Bellingham - before abuse charges by a 16-year-old boy and another relationship with an adult man resulted in his suspension.

Yet his entire tenure in Bellingham came after Morrissette had acknowledged the abuse.

"Bob admitted that he made advances to the young man . . . (and agreed) he would transfer to Bellingham," states an unsigned memo dated November 1984 - six months after Bernard Law's appointment as archbishop of Boston.

The molestation of the teen also allegedly involved the Rev. Richard O. Matte, another accused abuser.

In his years on sick leave, Morrissette was counseled by Dr. Ana Marie Rizzuto, a Brookline psychiatrist. The therapy, deemed effective by both patient and doctor, was initially endorsed by church officials.

But Rizzuto did not participate in the church's insurance plan, and in 1997, officials had Morrissette evaluated by Massachusetts General Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Edward Messner, who called Rizzuto's work "inefficient."

Saying "she would continue to work with him until he goes to God," Bishop Murphy approved terminating payments to her - a decision that David Clohessey of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said reflects the bottom-line attitude of the church.

"Therapy is no substitute for jail, but any reasonable person would rather see an abuser getting treatment than not," he said.

Unwilling to be laicized, Morrissette, who could not be reached for comment, now works as a concierge at the Boston Harbor Hotel.

In May, he was named "Concierge of the Year" by Where Magazine.


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