Priest Files Show Pattern of Moving Priests around

Associated Press State & Local Wire
February 6, 2003

The Rev. Paul Rynne's problems started out as complaints from parishioners about his drinking. But soon, church officials learned there was more.

In 1986, they received a complaint from the father of a 17-year-old boy who said Rynne had asked to take lewd pictures of the boy.

The church's response was to send Rynne for psychological counseling and treatment, then reassign him to a new parish: a pattern now familiar as dozens of priest personnel files have been released over the past several months detailing a variety of sordid allegations from sex abuse to drug abuse.

Rynne's personnel file includes a series of allegations, some made decades after the alleged abuse took place. On Thursday, the files on five priests were released by lawyers representing alleged victims of the Rev. Paul Shanley.

Rynne, who died in 2001, is one of 16 priests who was accused of sexual abuse named in new lawsuits filed against the archdiocese last week. The number of priests in the Boston archdiocese accused of sexually abusing children is now 130 since the scandal erupted a little over a year ago.

Rynne started out as a highly regarded priest who served as executive director of the archdiocese's Human Rights Committee and as a parish administrator.

But even early in his career, there were signs of trouble. Several letters in his file contain complaints about his failure to pay his bills, including rent he owed to a landlord on Cape Cod.

Then in 1982, a group of parishioners at St. Bonaventure parish in Plymouth as well as a fellow priest began writing to church officials complaining about Rynne's problem with alcohol. Church officials initially supported Rynne, calling the complaints an "unjust attack" on him.

But in 1986, the church received a complaint from the father of a 17-year-old boy who said Rynne had tried to touch him below the waist and asked if he could take nude photographs of him.

Rynne called the incident "a bad conversation" where he complimented the boy on his physique. But he submitted his resignation from the parish shortly after the incident.

After that, the archdiocese sent him to treatment centers in Missouri and Ontario, Canada.

A year later, Law appointed him as parochial vicar at St. Margaret Parish in Brockton.

"I am most pleased to hear that you are feeling well enough to once again assume a full-time assignment," Law wrote Rynne in a July 13, 1987, letter.

In January 1994, Law received a letter from a woman who said her 44-year-old son had recently told her that he was sexually abused as a teenager by Rynne in 1966. The man later wrote church officials, saying Rynne raped him in a hotel room after giving him whiskey and beating him with his belt.

The archdiocese placed Rynne on administrative leave, then sick leave and stripped him of his priestly duties. Rynne retired in July 1996.

Rynne is named in a lawsuit filed against the archdiocese last week by a man who claims Rynne sexually abused him in the early 1970s when he was 12 or 13 years old.

The man's attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, said Rynne's personnel file shows a clear pattern.

"It has become apparent that the supervisors may have been negligent in their duties and may have looked the other way when it came to stopping clergy sexual abuse," Garabedian said.

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said he had not seen Rynne's file and had no immediate comment.

Other priest files released Thursday include:

-The Rev. Gerard Dever, a parochial vicar at St. Ann parish in Quincy, who was repeatedly accused of inappropriate behavior toward young girls attending St. Ann School.

Archdiocese officials began receiving complaints in 1994, three years before Dever died of cancer at age 53. At the time, eight girls had reportedly complained after Dever allegedly played with their clothing and touched their breasts.

Dever agreed to assessments "to look at boundary issues," according to a 1994 review by an archdiocese panel. Although continued therapy was encouraged, Dever was never suspended. His case was closed just days before his death.

-The Rev. Lionel Ouelette, who had a reputation "for seducing young ladies," according to a letter sent to Ouelette's superiors in 1972.

According to a 1994 complaint, Ouelette also improperly touched young girls while an assistant pastor at St. Jean Baptiste parish in Lynn in the early 1960s.

Ouelette denied the allegations, and was allowed to continue in ministry after a review and a psychological assessment. Ouelette retired in December 1996 and died in September 2000.

-The Rev. Paul G. McPartland, who was accused of molesting a 16-year-old girl in 1969 while at Gate of Heaven parish in South Boston.

A woman in her mid-40s made the accusation almost 30 years later, saying McPartland had pinned her down in the front seat of his car and tried to take her shirt off. She said he stopped when she began crying uncontrollably.

The woman said she was traumatized by the event. The archdiocese agreed to pay almost $18,000 in therapy bills.

McPartland denied the accusation, saying he recalled once scolding the girl for her inappropriate "aggressive" behavior.

The archdiocese review board found in 1998 that said the exact nature of the incident could not be reliably determined. The board recommended no change in the status or working conditions of the priest. McPartland retired in August 2002.


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