Once-Abusive Priest Gives Evidence against Church

By J.M. Hirsch
Associated Press, carried in Boston Globe
February 16, 2003

CONCORD, N.H. - Six years after being ordained in 1970, the Rev. Paul Aube realized he had a serious problem. The Roman Catholic priest couldn't control his sexual urges, he says, and had molested several teenage boys.

Needing help, Aube blew the whistle on himself. He says he told his superiors that he'd had sexual contact with the teens, asked his bishop for psychological counseling, and requested to never again be assigned to work with children.

That didn't happen. Aube's bishop assigned him to a job that put him in regular contact with minors, and he stayed in public ministry - first in youth work, later in hospitals - another 18 years.

Last year, Aube blew the whistle again. This time, he went to the New Hampshire attorney general's office and, in exchange for limited immunity from prosecution, became a key witness in a state investigation of how the church mishandled clerical sex abuse cases.

"I'm willing to die for the church," Aube said in an interview. "But I had a moral responsibility, as the church teaches, to cooperate. I had a moral responsibility to participate with the civil authorities, and that's what I did."

The state's investigation ended with an unprecedented settlement in which the Diocese of Manchester, which covers the state of New Hampshire, admitted its handling of abusive priests had harmed children. The details are contained in 9,000 pages of investigative files the state plans to release March 3.

Patrick McGee, spokesman for the diocese, would not comment on Aube's claims. Retired Bishop Odore Gendron, to whom Aube says he turned in 1976, did not return calls.

Aube says he got a psychological evaluation through the diocese that year. But he says he did not learn until last summer that it deemed him fit to work with children.

In a national scandal that has seen more than 325 priests resign or be removed from their posts since early last year, Aube is one of the few to tell his story publicly.

The diocese listed Aube last year as one of 15 priests who had been credibly accused of abuse. He is named as an abuser in several lawsuits against the diocese, but never was charged criminally.

In the interview, Aube acknowledged that he molested several boys in their late teens between 1971 and 1980 while assigned to churches in Claremont, Berlin, Nashua, and Rochester.

He said none of the abuse "was forcible, violent or was the kind of sexual contact that you would consider to be grave or serious. No one was under the age of 16."

He also said he never harmed another minor since starting psychological treatment - at his own expense - in 1981. Placed on administrative leave by the diocese in 1994, he now lives in a camper and lives on $750 a month he gets from the church.

Aube, 62, grew up in New Hampshire and entered the seminary when he was 20.

One of his first assignments after ordination was to work with people questioning their sexual identities. He said he found it difficult to show affection and concern for them without crossing the line.

"People who were close to me were saying, `Paul, be careful. You could get yourself in trouble," he said. "After six years, something finally sunk in, and I became concerned and I wanted to see if there was anything there."

He approached Gendron, who retired in 1990. Aube said he asked the bishop not to be assigned to work with children; he wanted to return to school and study scripture.

"I was refused that, and the bishop insisted that I return to youth work to develop youth programs," he said. He said his duties included teaching religion classes for teenagers and children.

"Even when I expressed concern, I was asked to return to an atmosphere and a situation that put me at risk, against my good judgment," he said. "I did it out of obedience to my bishop."

In 1981, the diocese received a new allegation of abuse from another teenager. Aube acknowledged the abuse, but said the allegation was exaggerated.

Aube said he again asked for help. This time Gendron agreed, but Aube said the diocese never offered to pay for his counseling, leaving him to cover whatever his insurance didn't.

He then was appointed chaplain at Concord Hospital. In 1983, he became director of pastoral services at Elliot Hospital in Manchester, where he says he was approached by other abusive priests who had sought help and been turned away by the diocese. "They had just been rebuffed and [were] hurting," he said.

In 1993, Aube lost his job when Elliot merged with another hospital, and he was placed on leave a year later.

When the diocese named him as an alleged abuser a year ago, Aube hired a lawyer and soon began speaking with authorities.

Aube acknowledged that the harm he did to his victims can't be undone, though he hopes his cooperation with authorities will help them.

"I know what my Lord stands for, I know what my church stands for, and I know what I want to stand for, and I betrayed that," he said. "But I did whatever I could to rectify it. And I'm proud of that."

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