Eisenberg Sued Church, Claiming Sexual Abuse by Priest

By Shawne K. Wickham
New Hampshire Sunday News
December 2, 2007

A victims advocate says he wasn't surprised to learn that Leeland Eisenberg of Rochester, the man arrested after Friday's hostage crisis at Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign office, claims to have been sexually abused by a parish priest in his youth.

If anything, Terence McKiernan, the founder of, told the New Hampshire Sunday News, "It's amazing ... that you don't have more violence and scary situations as a result of the abuse that people suffer at the hands of these offenders."

Eisenberg, 46, filed a civil lawsuit in 2002 against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and Cardinal Bernard Law.

He alleged he was sexually abused in 1982 or 1983 at St. Catherine Church in Westford, Mass. Eisenberg was 21 years old at the time, and had been "homeless and living in abandoned cars in a local junkyard" in Ayer, Mass., when a sympathetic priest offered him a job painting the church and a cot in the church basement, according to the lawsuit.

McKiernan, whose organization documents the clergy abuse crisis on its extensive Web site, said he's never met Eisenberg. But he said the man's history of trouble -- alcoholism, stays in both psychiatric and prison facilities in Massachusetts, and more recently, domestic disputes and divorce -- "all fits a pattern."

In his lawsuit, Eisenberg named the Rev. Richard A. Buntel as his abuser.

Buntel, who was placed on administrative leave in 1994, did not answer his telephone yesterday, and did not respond to a message left by the New Hampshire Sunday News. But according to published reports, he has denied he molested Eisenberg.

According to his 2002 lawsuit, Eisenberg's troubles began in childhood, after his mother died and he was abused "at the hands of his violent, alcoholic father."

They only got worse after Eisenberg moved into the basement at St. Catherine parish, if the story detailed in court documents is true. And alcohol would play a prominent role.

Eisenberg's lawsuit describes how each Monday, when the senior priest was off, Buntel would take him to eat and drink at a local Westford restaurant. Afterward, the priest would take Eisenberg back to the rectory where, after "numerous drinks," the priest allegedly would sit with Eisenberg on a couch to look at pornography before sexually molesting him.

The document also alleges the priest after "numerous" alcoholic drinks took him to a peep show in Lowell and molested him there. And it describes another night when Eisenberg passed out drunk in the priest's car and woke up as he was being "raped."

According to the lawsuit, Eisenberg left the church premises that night, "never to say a word to anyone." He tried to kill himself later that week by jumping off a bridge in Ayer, and later spent time in a psychiatric facility for observation and treatment.

A spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections has also said Eisenberg served time in state prison in Concord, Mass., and was released in March of 2005. Citing state law, she would not reveal his crime, but published reports have stated it was a sex offense.

Boston newspapers have also reported that Eisenberg was among hundreds of clergy abuse victims in a 2003 settlement with the Archdiocese of Boston; the Sunday News could not confirm that.

However, church documents reviewed by the Sunday News reveal that Buntel in 1994 admitted to sexual activity with a teenaged boy and with "adult men" around the time Eisenberg was living at his parish. And they reveal an archdiocesan official had met with Buntel in 1983 "regarding hearsay reports of alcohol and drug use and possible homosexual activity."

"So the sad fact is that if they had taken the problems more seriously, Eisenberg might have just painted the church and had a place to sleep for a while, and never crossed paths with Buntel," McKiernan said.


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