NH Priest Defrocked by Vatican

By Kathryn Marchocki
The Union Leader [Manchester NH]
June 10, 2005

MANCHESTER — Ronald E. Corriveau, accused of molesting a teenage boy in Manchester in 1982 and possessing Internet pornography three years ago, is the first Roman Catholic diocesan priest in New Hampshire to be defrocked since the clergy sexual abuse scandal became public in early 2002, the diocese announced yesterday.

The late Pope John Paul II made the decision to laicize Corriveau, 60, on March 21, less than two weeks before the Pontiff's death.

"By virtue of this decree, Ronald Corriveau is no longer bound to the obligations of the sacred priesthood, has no faculties to act as a priest and has been returned to the lay state," the diocese said in a two-sentence statement released late yesterday afternoon.

Corriveau was pastor of an Epping parish when the diocese learned of the abuse allegation against him on March 11, 2002. He has been on administrative leave since and now lives in Nashua.

Corriveau is one of 27 living priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors whose cases were sent to the Vatican for possible punitive action since November 2002, church officials have said.

Meanwhile, a state prosecutor said he believes the statute of limitations has not expired on the abuse allegation brought against Corriveau; the ex-priest could face possible criminal action.

"I think it's still an open case," Senior Assistant Attorney General N. William Delker said.

The status of the other cases being reviewed by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is not known.

"This is the only one that we have been informed of," diocesan spokesman Pat McGee said.

"I would say that's up to the Vatican to inform us once they reach a resolution," he said.

The diocese recently received notice of the Vatican's decision regarding Corriveau, McGee said. After informing Corriveau and diocesan priests of the Pope's decree, church officials announced it publicly.

McGee said he is not aware of the last time a Manchester diocesan priest was defrocked, or dismissed from the priesthood. The action bars a priest from acting in any way as a priest or receiving any of the benefits of a priest, including financial benefits, he said.

McGee would not comment on Corriveau's case beyond previously published statements by the diocese.

Ordained 34 years ago, Corriveau was serving as pastor of St. Joseph Church in Epping in March 2002 when a Goffstown man accused Corriveau of fondling him when he was 15.

The alleged abuse occurred after a party attended by several minors that was held in the rectory of St. Francis of Assisi church, which then was located in south Manchester. Corriveau was associate pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish at the time and served there from 1978 to 1982.

When the alleged victim came forward, church officials said it was the first accusation of sexual abuse made against Corriveau and did not relate to his ministry at St. Joseph parish in Epping.

But several months after Corriveau was placed on administrative leave, St. Joseph parishioners reported finding homosexual pornography on the parish computer.

Delker said his office referred the matter to Epping police for investigation. Epping Police Chief Gregory C. Dodge at the time said that, while material found on the computer's hard drive "concerned (police) greatly," it did not appear to be criminal in nature.

The computer was forwarded to the state police crime laboratory for analysis.

"I don't recall the outcome of that," Delker said last night. The alleged victim, who was 35 when he came forward with his complaint against Corriveau, reached an out-of-court civil settlement in 2002, his attorney, Peter E. Hutchins, has said.

Hutchins could not be reached for comment yesterday.


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