Suit Accuses R.I. Pastor of Sex Assault
An Illinois Man Alleges the Rev. Ronald E. Brassard Assaulted Him in the '70s. the Priest Denies the Allegation
By Elizabeth Abbott
May 5, 1995
An Illinois man has accused the pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Cranston of sexually assaulting him in the late 1970s. Both the priest and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence deny the allegation.
In a lawsuit filed April 5 in Illinois state court, Kevin J. Mohr alleges that the Rev. Ronald E. Brassard sexually assaulted him once between 1976 and 1980, when the priest worked at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Ill.
Father Brassard is one of nine clergymen named as respondents in Mohr's suit, which alleges sexual abuse by a number of priests over a period of years. Mohr, 32, states in his complaint that he repressed memories of the alleged assaults, which he claims occurred when he was in his teens, until he went to see a psychiatrist in April 1993.
This week, Father Brassard denied the accusation, appearing on a segment of Channel 10 news to do so.
Noting that he did not begin working in Illinois until September 1983, after Mohr says the alleged sexual assault took place, Father Brassard said in an interview this week, "It's obviously a false accusation. I was in Rhode Island."
The Diocese of Providence has also come to the priest's defense. Like Father Brassard, the diocese questions the dates in Mohr's complaint, saying: "The objective facts do not seem to support the complaint against (Father Brassard)."
Unlike previous cases of alleged clergy abuse in Rhode Island, the diocese has refused to ask Father Brassard to step down pending an investigation.
"An initial review reveals some serious inconsistencies in the objective facts stated in the court documents," said a statement issued by the diocese.
". . . In light of these inconsistencies, no previous complaint to Bishop Gelineau by the plaintiff or others, and the absence of a credible reason to remove him, Father Brassard will remain as pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Cranston pending further investigation of this matter."
Yesterday the spokesman for the diocese, Willam Halpin, said nothing new has come to light in the last month to change the diocese's position regarding Father Brassard. Halpin has called the accusation "stunning," and said Father Brassard has not yet been served a copy of Mohr's complaint.
Mohr's lawyer, Douglas A. Forsythe of Clayton, Mo., did not return phone calls yesterday. In an interview after Mohr's suit was filed, he said he was "reasonably certain" he had his dates right concerning Father Brassard, but he wanted to check with his client again before saying he was definite.
Father Brassard was ordained in Rhode Island in 1974. He returned to Rhode Island from Illinois in September 1988, and was appointed assistant pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish two months later. He became pastor in January 1994.
The head of a national group that represents alleged victims of clergy abuse has criticized the diocese's refusal to remove Father Brassard, calling it evidence that the Diocese of Providence is insensitive to abuse victims.
"We are extremely disappointed that Bishop Gelineau continues to do the wrong thing by failing to remove a priest formally accused of a heinous crime," David Clohessy, the national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said in a statement.
"Kevin Mohr is a member of our group and a very credible person. . . . He spent considerable time and effort trying to resolve this matter amicably before seeking legal redress," Clohessy said.
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