Report: Bishop Purged Records; N.H. Church Leader Destroyed Evidence
By Robin Washington
January 7, 2003
A former New Hampshire bishop destroyed records on two Manchester Diocese priests in the 1980s - including an assessment from a sexual abuse treatment center - according to court documents made public by a plaintiffs' attorney.
Bishop Odore Gendron, who led the diocese from 1975 until his retirement in 1990, purged files on the Revs. Philip Petit and Gordon Mac-Rae, states a motion filed last week in Hillsborough County Superior Court by Mark Abramson, a lawyer representing 60 alleged victims.
The document destruction is mentioned in letters written by Gendron in 1986 and 1989, one of them addressed to Petit saying he would "certainly destroy all documents, notes, etc., referring to your treatment" for sexual misconduct, the motion states.
In another letter, the bishop wrote to New Mexico's Servants of the Paraclete clergy treatment center in 1989, agreeing to destroy an evaluation of MacRae, a former Keene priest now serving 33 to 67 years in prison after a 1994 conviction for molesting boys.
The revelation of the document purge comes in the wake of a deal last month between the diocese and the office of the New Hampshire attorney general, which mandated the church turn over all files in exchange for an agreement not to prosecute diocese officials.
While declining to comment specifically on the destroyed documents, AG spokesman Will Delker said prosecutors are aware of gaps in the church's files.
"We have a good idea what the diocese had or didn't have. It doesn't come as a surprise to find there are missing or destroyed documents," he said.
But the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer and longtime critic of the Catholic Church's handling of abuse cases, said Gendron's destruction probably violated church code, if not civil law.
"Canon 486 says 'All diocesan and parochial documents must be protected with the greatest care,' " he said. "I think destroying those is a violation of the spirit of that, if not the letter of it. There's no excuse for that."
Diocese spokesman Patrick McGee said Petit, who was named in an abuse suit, left the ministry in 1986.
In Boston archdiocese cases:
- Roderick MacLeish Jr., a lawyer representing plaintiffs charging the Rev. Paul R. Shanley with abuse, filed a motion in Suffolk Superior Court to compel Bernard Cardinal Law to appear at a Jan. 21 deposition.
- Attorney Mitchell Garabedian filed suit on behalf of Christine Kalinowski of Quincy, alleging up to 200 incidences of sexual abuse by a Jesuit priest, the late Rev. Joseph McInnis, when Kalinowski was between 6 and 11 years old.
- Boston Catholic Television has suspended its live broadcast of Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross "for the foreseeable future," an on-air host said. Archdiocese officials did not return a call but a source said the suspension was due to budgetary concerns.
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