Cote's Behavior Shocks Old Friend

By Pat Hammond
New Hampshire Sunday News [New Hampshire]
Downloaded March 16, 2003

The Rev. Robert Gorski says he was shocked when he learned that his old friend, the Rev. Roland Cote, had had an affair with a young man who was working for him at the vacation home Cote and Gorski shared with two other Catholic priests near Newport. But Gorski still considers Cote a friend.

"I was totally shocked," said Gorski, who is assistant pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Manchester, referring to the disclosure of Cote's homosexual conduct with the man over several years in the 1980s.

"We go back 30 years. He is a real good friend. He never made any advances to me," said Gorski.

And, though the age of Cote's sex partner is still in question - if he was under 16, Cote could be charged with felonious sexual assault - Gorski said the one time he met the man, he was "well in his twenties."

"When I first became aware of this incident that took place, it was long after this relationship had ended, just before it became public," Gorski told the Sunday News.

"There was a concern in the diocese that this could be a broad-brush kind of thing," Gorski said Friday, suggesting that the public could incorrectly infer that if Cote was homosexual, the three priests with whom he shared ownership of the wooded getaway on Newport's Skyline Drive could also be gay.

Indeed, the young man did testify to investigators that he witnessed two other priests - but not Gorski - kissing each other inside the house.

Asked on Friday if the priests ever engaged in kissing within the walls of the country house, Gorski replied, "That's absolutely false. That did not happen."

According to papers in the New Hampshire attorney general's file on the Cote case, the warranty deed for the property at 219 Skyline Drive was conveyed to Roland P. Cote, then serving at St. Patrick Catholic Rectory in Newport, on June 3, 1982.

A corrective warranty deed on Nov. 23, 1987, reflected a change in Cote's address to Beecher Falls, Vt.

On Sept. 10, 1990, a quitclaim deed from Roland P. Cote to Roland P. Cote, Robert E. Gorski and Paul Bouchard was registered. The name of Michael J. Ciullo was added on March 14, 1997.

The papers, which are from the Sullivan County Registry of Deeds, say there is a house on the real estate and the land consists of 5.5 acres. The current assessed value (as of April 11, 2002) was $84,200.

The title to a second parcel - 17 acres in current use - is also held by the four priests.

Gorski said on Friday that Rev. Ciullo has died. "I now share it with Paul Bouchard and Roland Cote," he said. "It is a vacation home. I go up on weekends and will eventually retire there. It is a quiet place in the woods."

Gorski said he met the young man just once.

"I met him when I went up to Newport to do some work at the house. We had a kerosene heater and we had been given some bad fuel for it. It was sooting up all over the house. We had to repaint the whole house in the spring and summer of 1992.

"I had gone up to help with the painting. Roland introduced me to this person. This gentleman was helping out painting, he was well in his twenties. He was no kid," Gorski said.

Cote and Gorski met when he was a student at Exeter High School and Cote was a deacon in St. Michael's Parish in Exeter, which Gorski attended.

"He was ordained a priest at St. John the Baptist soon after I met him. He helped me through seminary and he has been a real good friend."

Gorski said he never had any idea that his friend was involved in homosexual conduct. When he became aware of Cote's relationship with the young man in Newport, "I was surprised," he said. "But it has not changed our friendship."

Gorski said he was concerned about a recent newspaper report that he had had a "secret meeting" with Auxiliary Bishop Francis Christian. The report said I was "confident that this person was not a minor."

"The story seemed to imply that Christian and I had a secret meeting as a part of a coverup" of the Cote matter, Gorski said.

"This was not the case. It was an unplanned meeting. The bishop saw me" at a church function "and said he would like to talk to me. It was not a secret meeting."

"What I told the bishop was: I was not concerned" about the relationship between Cote and the younger man "because the person was older and no crime was committed. I was not concerned about any activity with minors. I was shocked when there was some question about the age of the person.

"The Roland Cote I know would not have had anything to do with anyone who was a minor," Gorski said.

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