|Decades behind Bars for Rapist Priest
By Bob Gardinier
Albany Times Union
February 16, 2011
PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- Former priest Gary Mercure had nothing to say and only smiled Wednesday after a Berkshire County judge sentenced him to more than two decades behind bars for raping two altar boys in the 1980s.
"You are no more than a common thug," Berkshire County Judge John A. Agostini told Mercure, 62, before sentencing him to 20 to 25 years in prison on three counts of forcible rape. Mercure also was sentenced to three to five years, to be served concurrently, on one count of indecent assault and battery on a child under age 14.
"My memories are dark and destroyed. My trust in humanity has been severely harmed. I will never shed the disgust and filthiness," one of the victims told Mercure during a victim impact statement read in court by First Assistant District Attorney Paul Caccaviello.
Mercure, in handcuffs and leg irons, sat looking straight ahead as victim impact statements were delivered to a packed courtroom. The victims and their friends and families took up nearly half the court's seats.
Mercure's other victim said, "I hope the dark cloud may finally be lifted from me so I can live a normal life."
The man's father called the victims heroes for coming forward. His statement was read to the court.
"If you were a dog, I'd take you outside and shoot you," the father said about Mercure.
A former Catholic priest with a long history of sexually assaulting young altar boys, Mercure was found guilty Feb. 10 of bringing two boys to the Berkshires in the 1980s and raping them. He will serve his sentence at Cedar Junction prison in Walpole, Mass.
During a poignant moment Wednesday, the mother of one of Mercure's victims turned to face her grown son and apologized for failing to discover the abuse.
"I am so sorry I did not recognize your abuse until it was too late," she said.
The woman had testified that she found five pairs of her son's bloodied underwear stuffed inside a wall in his bedroom. The victim said he hid the underwear after Mercure raped him when he was about 11 or 12 years old.
In court Wednesday, victims could be heard sobbing as the mother pleaded with her son to forgive her.
"Father Gary, it is time for you to have remorse and apologize to your victims," she said.
As he did after his conviction, Mercure smiled broadly when he stood up and turned to face the crowd in court as he was led away.
A few hours before the sentencing, Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard announced he is asking the Vatican to defrock Mercure.
"Now that a conviction has been rendered by the jury in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I will be forwarding to the Vatican, specifically to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the matter of the sexual abuse of minors by Gary Mercure," Hubbard wrote in a statement issued by the diocese.
"I am recommending to the Vatican, through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that Gary Mercure, already permanently removed in 2008 from all ministry in the church and forbidden to present himself as a priest in any way whatsoever, now be dismissed formally from the clerical state."
Mercure last served in Sacred Heart and St. William parishes in Troy before he was suspended from the ministry amid child rape accusations in January 2008.
Caccaviello told jurors during the trial that Mercure used a variety of threats to keep the boys from telling their families or authorities. "To a young boy, his threats were like a knife to their throats," Caccaviello said.
Several jurors cried while listening to five victims' disturbing and emotional testimony during the trial. All were former altar boys at Our Lady of the Annunciation Parish in Queensbury.
The statute of limitations to charge Mercure in New York had expired, but was still in effect in Massachusetts.
The victims said in some cases the abuse started when they were 8 and continued until they were 15 or 16. One victim said Mercure sexually assaulted him multiple times in one day. The attacks occurred in the rectory after Mass, in the altar boys' dressing room in the church, after Mercure gave the boys wine, in the back seat of the priest's car, and in their homes. A couple of victims said Mercure attacked them while their parents were occupied in another room.
One victim testified that Mercure had him close his eyes and pray as a way to relax him while he was sexually abused.
Mercure's lawyer, Michael O. Jennings, had asked the judge for a sentence of eight years. He suggested during trial that the two accusers conspired with advocates for victims of sex abuse by priests and made up their assertion that Mercure attacked them in Massachusetts as well as New York.
Jennings has said Mercure will appeal the conviction.
Mercure's two Berkshire County victims testified they were abused in separate incidents in the parking lot at the former Brodie Mountain ski area and in the parking lot of an Appalachian trail head in 1986 and 1989.
The three other New York victims said they never traveled to Massachusetts with the priest.
The diocese does not pay Mercure but he gets pension payments for his 34 years as a priest. He is not provided housing by the church and no diocesan funds went to his defense, diocese spokesman Ken Goldfarb said.
Goldfarb said the church first heard about Mercure's sexual activities in 1994 when a Queensbury man came forward, saying he was in an adult sexual relationship with Mercure.
"Mercure was disciplined at that time," Goldfarb said.
Mark Lyman, Capital Region director of SNAP -- Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests -- alleged that the diocese knew for years about Mercure's activities but moved him from church to church to cover it up.
Goldfarb has said those allegations are false and Mercure was not moved anymore than is typical for the priesthood.
Reach Bob Gardinier at 454-5696 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The following is a list of Gary Mercure's assignments provided by the diocese
1974-1978 Associate pastor, Our Lady of the Assumption, Latham
1978-1982: Associate pastor, St. Teresa of Avila, Albany
1982-1991: Associate pastor, Our Lady of the Annunciation, Queensbury
1991-1995: Pastor, St. Mary's, Glens Falls
1995-1996: Requested and was granted a health sabbatical
1996-1997: Associate pastor, St. Mary's, Clinton Heights, East Greenbush
1997-2000: Associate pastor, Sacred Heart, Troy
2000-2008: Pastor, Sacred Heart, Troy, and St. Williams, Troy
2008: Removed from ministry
Source: Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany
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