Wounds Raw for Victims

By Emelie Rutherford
Milford Daily News [Bellingham MA]
July 31, 2003

BELLINGHAM -- Boston's new Archbishop Sean Patrick O'Malley preached a message of healing during his induction yesterday, but the wounds allegedly inflicted by the Rev. Paul M. Desilets are still raw in Bellingham.

The former Assumption Parish pastor accused of molesting 20 local adolescents in the late 1970s and the early 1980s is still in Canada, where he lives and was arrested last October, following a grand jury indictment last spring. Desilets, 79, fought his extradition in January and since then his time as a free man has been extended, according to Elizabeth Stammo, spokeswoman for Worcester County District Attorney John Conte.

"The deadline for the Canadian minister of justice to even render a decision whether Father Desilets will be extradited back has been extended to Oct. 24 of this year," Stammo said yesterday. "So pretty much nothing will be done on that case in the meantime."

If Desilets returns to Massachusetts, he faces trial on 32 counts of sexual abuse.

Alleged victim Joseph O. Fleuette III and others involved with the case spoke yesterday of their hopes for O'Malley and the latest delay in the case.

Fleuette said O'Malley, a Capuchin Franciscan friar, seems humble and sincere, but he wants to see him make changes.

"I've seen him on TV and it seems like he can talk the talk, but can he walk the walk?" asked Fleuette, hours after O'Malley promised during his induction ceremony to mend priest abuse victims' wounds and restore their confidence in the church.

"It's just another name," Fleuette, who lives in Bellingham and works in remodeling, said of O'Malley. "Unless he does something good out of it then he just follows into the secrecy of the church."

"He doesn't look as pompous as (Cardinal Bernard) Law," Fleuette said about O'Malley, who wears a brown robe and lives simply. "(But) he has to make changes."

Law resigned in December after accusations of serial abuse by a number of priests became public.

Fleuette said he wants to see O'Malley bring the sexual abuse scandals into the limelight. "It seems like with all this litigation going on, no one wants to talk about it," he said. "It needs to be discussed openly and it needs to be handled."

Of the extension in the Desilets case, Fleuette was glad a date had been set. "I can look forward to October and circle the month. This has been hide-and-seek for a year and a half," Fleuette said.

Fleuette was not the only one surprised by the news Desilets' extradition hearing has been extended to October.

"I'm kind of surprised it's been pushed back," said Bellingham Police Lt. Kevin Ranieri. "I thought it would be decided by now. Hopefully Canada will let us do what we need to do."

Canadian law officers arrested Desilets last October after Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte requested his extradition. The request came after a Worcester County grand injury indicted Desilets for sexual abuse after reviewing evidence uncovered by Bellingham Police Detectives Richard Perry and Christopher Ferreira.

If Desilets returns to the United States, he will face 16 counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14, 10 counts of indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or older and six counts of assault and battery.

The 20 alleged victims' attorney, Jeffrey A. Newman of the law firm of Greenberg Traurig in Boston, did not know about the extension of the deadline until contacted by the Daily News. He said his clients have not received justice.

"You have two issues in regard to the clients," he said. "The first issue is they've been stonewalled by the Boston Archdiocese in terms of litigation. And the second is the wheels of justice aren't working for them (with this situation with Canada). You'd think it'd be faster, even though it's two countries (involved)."

Newman has filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of the alleged victims in Suffolk Superior Court. He said three people are named as defendants: Bishop John McCormick, who was in charge of ministerial personnel in the Boston Archdiocese from 1984 to 1984; the Boston Archdiocese; and Cardinal Bernard Law, he said.

"The civil process is going forward against the defendants," he said.

Fleuette, 39, and the other alleged victims claim that when they were adolescents Desilets molested them in a rough manner and squeezed their genitals.

Desilets has denied in published reports that he touched the boys' genitals in the way his accusers alleged. He also said the allegations were misinterpretations and exaggerations.

A Springfield native, Desilets served at St. Ann's in Marlborough for five years before coming to Assumption parish on Pulaski Boulevard in 1974. He left in 1984, when he moved to Quebec, where he was a priest of the Order of the Clerics of Saint Viator.

Desilets' attorney, Dennis J. Kelly of Burns and Levinson in Boston, could not be reached for comment.

Emelie Rutherford can be reached at 508-634-7552 and


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