6 Priests Accused of Abuse Are out 'Left Clerical State,' Archdiocese Says
'Left Clerical State,' Archdiocese Says

By Michael Paulson and Jonathan Saltzman
Boston Globe
June 10, 2005

The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston announced yesterday that six priests accused of sexually abusing minors are "no longer in the clerical state," indicating that they were either defrocked by the Vatican or had voluntarily left the priesthood.

The priests were among several dozen accused of abuse who were removed from ministry in Boston after the abuse crisis erupted in early 2002.

The archdiocese refused yesterday to say how many priests are still on leave facing unresolved accusations, how many have been removed from the priesthood, and how many have been restored to their jobs after investigations failed to substantiate the allegations.

But a spokesman said that Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley, who has expressed frustration that the Vatican has moved too slowly to resolve abuse accusations against priests, was pleased to see the backlog being reduced.

Under church law, all credible accusations of abuse must be referred to the Vatican, which can then decide how to resolve the case or can allow dioceces to do so.

The archdiocese would not offer any details about the process by which the six accused priests left "the clerical state," but said in a statement that "loss of the clerical state means that none of these men may function in any capacity as a priest, with the exception of offering absolution to the dying."

Since the abuse crisis, the archdiocese has pledged to refer all abuse allegations to state officials for possible prosecution. But most of the cases now being considered by the church concern alleged incidents said to have occurred so long ago that prosecution is precluded by statutes of limitation.

The priests who were removed from the clerical state, according to the archdiocese, are John K. Connell, Denis Conte, Peter J. Frost, John Hanlon, Richard Matte, and Paul David White. The allegations against them, according to news reports and court records, are:

Connell was accused in a civil lawsuit in 2002 of molesting a 12-year-old boy during a trip to Florida and visits to a Plymouth home in the 1970s. He had been removed as chaplain at St. John's Preparatory School by the arch diocese in 1994 after church officials received a complaint alleging sexual misconduct.

Conte was moved from parish to parish until a lawsuit accused him of molesting an altar boy inside St. Anthony Parish in Revere in the 1970s. Conte, who also served at St. Mary of the Assumption in Dracut, also allegedly took several altar boys to his New Hampshire home and fondled one while proclaiming his love.

Frost, who worked in Whitman, Canton, and Milton parishes from 1970 to 1991, was accused in several lawsuits of sexually abusing children. He was removed from active ministry in 1992 and told Cardinal Bernard F. Law in a handwritten letter two years later that he was gay and a "sex addict" and was ashamed of the pain he caused his victims.

Hanlon was convicted in 1994 of raping an adolescent boy more than a decade earlier while Hanlon served at St. Mary's in Plymouth. Hanlon, who allegedly took boys to a nude beach and abused them, was sentenced to three concurrent life terms.

Matte, a native of Lowell, was accused in a lawsuit unsealed in 2002 of raping a 13-year-old boy while serving at St. Joseph's Church in Pepperell in the 1970s. Matte, who also served at Assumption Parish in Bellingham, blew the whistle in the mid-1980s on a Quebec priest who was extradited in 2002 to face 32 charges of molesting altar boys.

White was sued in 1998 by an Essex County man who contended that the priest had sexually abused him more than 30 years earlier when the plaintiff was an altar boy at a Bradford church. The abuse allegedly occurred over several years at Sacred Heart Church, beginning in 1964.


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