Former Local Priests Defrocked over Sexual Allegations

By Nicole Simmons
Metro West Daily News
March 18, 2006

Boston -- Seven priests -- including one who served in Franklin and another who served in Bellingham -- accused of molesting children have been defrocked, church officials announced yesterday.

In a statement, Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley expressed his "deepest sorrow for the grievous harm" done by the priests, including Anthony Buchette, a former St. Mary's priest in Franklin, and Robert Morrisette, a former priest at the now-closed Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Bellingham.

Also defrocked was Ernest Tourigney, who served in St. Mary's in Holliston.

"The violations of childhood innocence, under the guise of priestly care, are a source of profound shame," O'Malley said.

The removal of the seven men from the priesthood means they are no longer allowed to perform any public ministry in the church. They also will no longer receive any financial support from the archdiocese. The Vatican also stripped a deacon of his duties.

Buchette served at St. Mary's in Franklin from the late-'60s to mid-'70s, according to Daily News reports written in 2003 when the then 72-year-old was accused of molestation by seven unidentified men who were then in their early to late 40s.

The victims' attorney, William T. Kennedy, said the alleged victims grew up in Franklin and were adolescents at the time of the alleged abuse.

When reached at his home in Lynn where he had retired to, Buchette was quoted in June 2003 as saying, "You're not going to get something out of me that I don't remember. These things happened 30 years ago. My religion calls for, no matter what happens, forgiveness."

Buchette was assigned to churches in Roxbury and Dorchester after leaving Franklin, according to the June 2003 article.

A former Bellingham priest, Robert Morrisette served at Assumption Parish on Pulaski Boulevard from 1984 until 1993, according to Daily News reports. Assumption closed in 2004 as part of the archdiocese's financial restructuring and parishioners now attend St. Blaise Parish in Bellingham.

Church documents show Morrisette was transferred in 1984 to Assumption from St. Joseph's Parish in Salem after he admitted molesting one boy and received complaints from two others, according to a December 2002 Daily News article.

Morrisette's personnel files showed that he was accused of having an affair with a 25-year-old man while in Bellingham, according to the story.

Morrisette was placed on sick leave in Bellingham in 1993 after a young man accused him of "grabbing him on the butt," the story said.

In 1998, Morrisette's status changed to "unassigned," and he had not sought an assignment since leaving Bellingham, according to the article.

Morrisette is not the only former Assumption priest to face the consequences of molesting children.

In May 2005, Paul Desilets admitted in Worcester Superior Court to sexually assaulting 18 altar boys at Assumption in the 1970s and 1980s. Desilets, then 82, was sentenced to 1 to 1 1/2 years at MCI-Cedar Junction, to run concurrently with an additional sentence of a year in the House of Correction, followed by 10 years probation.

Desilets was a priest at Assumption for a decade, and returned to his home country of Canada in 1984, where he battled extradition about two decades later until returning in 2005.

Desilets was replaced by Morrisette in 1984 and by Richard Matte in 1985.

Matte was among six priests in June 2005 who "left the clerical state" accused of sexually abusing minors, according to an archdiocese announcement at the time. He had already been removed from active duty in 2002. Matte could not act as a priest except to offer absolution to the dying and could no longer receive financial support from the archdiocese.

Matte served alongside Morrisette, and was the one who in 1988 informed the archdiocese that Morrisette was having a sexual relationship with a 25-year-old man, according to a June 2005 Daily News report.

Beside Buchette and Morrisette, the other priests who were defrocked yesterday were: Tourigney, Frederick Ryan, Paul Finegan, Thomas Forry, and Patrick Tague. Joseph Crowley, a deacon, will also no longer be allowed to perform any public ministry in the church.

The scandal erupted in the Boston archdiocese in 2002, prompting O'Malley's predecessor -- Cardinal Bernard Law -- to resign under mounting pressure about his handling of the crisis and of priests who had been accused of molesting children. About a year later, the archdiocese reached an $85 million deal to settle lawsuits by about 550 victims of clergy sex abuse.

An investigation by the state attorney general later found that about 1,000 had been molested by dozens of priests over about five decades. Many of the priests were shipped from parish to parish to try to conceal the allegations.

"I pray and hope that the emotional, physical, and spiritual wounds carried by survivors will be healed and their trust renewed," said O'Malley, who is set to be elevated to cardinal next week. "I pledge the ongoing commitment of the archdiocese to accompany those who have been abused in their healing work."

David Riley contributed to this report.Associated Press material was used.


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