Pope Defrocks Priest Accused of Assault Aube Once Served at Concord Hospital

By Lisa Arsenault
Concord Monitor [Concord NH]
August 13, 2005

Father Paul Aube, a New Hampshire priest repeatedly accused of sexual abuse dating back to the early 1970s, has been defrocked by Pope Benedict XVI.

Aube, 64, is only the second New Hampshire priest to be defrocked since the clergy sexual abuse scandal was uncovered in early 2002. The decision by the Pope is the highest form of punishment for priests, completely removing Aube from the priesthood and stripping him of both his right to minister to people and any financial support from the church.

The Archdiocese of Manchester announced Aube's defrocking yesterday, nearly three months after the Pope made the decision on May 20.

"By virtue of this decree, Paul Aube 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," according to a two-sentence press release put out yesterday by the Archdiocese of Manchester.

The Archdiocese declined to comment further. Aube does not have a listed telephone number and could not be reached for comment yesterday. Aube was removed from the ministry in February 2002 when Roman Catholic leaders gave state prosecutors the names of 14 priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors in New Hampshire between 1962 and 1987. Aube's name was on that list. During a quarter century of active priesthood, Aube served at St. Mary's Parish in Claremont, Guardian Angel Parish in Berlin, St. Aloysius Parish in Nashua and the Holy Rosary Parish in Rochester before being made the chaplain of Concord Hospital from 1981 to 1983. Aube was then moved to the Elliot Hospital in Manchester, where he served as chaplain until 1993, when he went on an extended leave of absence prior to his February 2002 removal.

Diocesan officials have said the first they heard of sexual misconduct involving Aube was in 1981, after a Rochester woman complained that he had molested her teenage son. An investigation conducted by the state Attorney General's office in 2002 found that narcotics officers from the Nashua Police Department discovered Aube and a boy from his youth group at Saint Aloysius having sex in Aube's car on a back road in Nashua in 1975. Aube was not arrested, but the next morning he told his pastor what had happened and he was referred by superiors to a counselor, according to extensive documents outlining clergy sexual abuse released by the Attorney General's office in March 2003.

Following the 1975 incident, Aube was ordered by church superiors to complete several psychiatric evaluations and continued psychiatric care. During that time, he was shuffled from Rochester to Concord and then to Manchester over a seven-year period when investigators believe he may have sexually abused at least seven more teenagers.

Peter Hutchins, a Manchester lawyer who has represented victims in court who say they were sexual assaulted by Aube, said yesterday that Aube's defrocking is good news for his clients and the Roman Catholic Church.

"A lot of these people didn't come forward over the years because of shame and guilt and fear that people wouldn't believe them," Hutchins said. "I think with the Pope taking the action to defrock these priests, it's the ultimate relief of that fear."

Hutchins has represented three men and one woman who say they were assaulted by Aube. He said he hadn't spoken directly with them since he was told Thursday that Aube had been defrocked, but he expected his clients to have a sense that justice had been served.

"One of the most powerful entities in the world, the Vatican, has taken action and thrown the person out, which clearly validates 100 percent what they had been saying,"Hutchins said. "This sends a message that they're cleaning up."

Several Boston priests have been defrocked, including the late John Geoghan and Paul Shanley, who was recently convicted in Boston of sexually assaulting a boy many decades ago.

In New Hampshire, only one other priest has been defrocked. Ronald Corriveau, 60, was defrocked in March. Corriveau was accused of molesting a teenage boy in Manchester in 1982 and possessing Internet pornography three years ago. His defrocking was not made public by the diocese until June.

A Massachusetts lawyer who specializes in church law agreed in February to explain the defrocking process to a Concord Monitorreporter on the condition of anonymity because she helps soon-to-be defrocked priests negotiate the steps.

The defrocking process, which is the same for all Catholic dioceses, begins in a local diocese at the request of a bishop but is decided by the pope, she said. Local church officials must conduct an investigation and church trial before sending a documented request for removal to the pope. Throughout the investigation and trial, she said, the priest is given ample opportunity to defend himself. A decision from Rome can take months, even years, because of the many steps, she said.

Four New Hampshire priests are serving prison time for sexually assaulting children. The Rev. Roger Fortier is serving 20 to 40 years; the Rev. Gordon MacRae, up to 67 years; the Rev. Joseph Maguire, at least 44 years; and the Rev. Francis Talbot, 10 years.