Former Priest Pleads Guilty to Sexual Assault

Worcester Telegram & Gazette
March 7, 1996

Exeter, N.H. — A Salem man, who left the Roman Catholic priesthood in 1991 after seeking treatment for pedophilia, pleaded guilty Tuesday to luring boys into his apartment and molesting one.

Robert Burns, 46, pleaded guilty in Rockingham County Superior Court to two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault on a child under 13. He was sentenced to two consecutive four to eight year prison terms.As Burns was led from the courthouse in handcuffs, the victim's grandmother yelled at him, "Shame on you for all the little boys you've molested all those years."

The victim's father said he was satisfied with the judge's sentence.

"It just makes me sick to my stomach, but we're pleased to finally have this man in custody, just to get this guy off the street and make him as miserable as long as we can," he said.

Burns, who once worked in parishes in Massachusetts and Ohio, said he used computer images of women in swimsuits to lure two neighborhood boys into his apartment.

According to court records, Burns sexually assaulted one boy three times between February and March last year.

"Your Honor, I do want to express my deep sorrow," Burns said in court. "In the year since this occurred, I've faced a lot of truths about myself.

... I will do everything I can to make myself a better person."

Assistant County Attorney Robert Gainor said Tuesday was the first time Burns had ever been criminally charged and convicted with sexually assaulting a child.

However, a letter in police evidence indicates Burns, a priest from 1975 to 1991, may have sexually assaulted 16 youths in Ohio and Massachusetts. The letter was from Stephen Montana, clinical psychologist director at Saint Luke Institute in Maryland, to Bishop James Malone of the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio.

In it, Montana details a lengthy interview he had with Burns about his pedophilia.

The letter states that Burns said he had sexual contact with about 10 children between 1976 and 1981, four boys in 1985 and two boys between 1988 and 1990.

Montana wrote, "As I am sure you recall, Father Burns has had a long history of sexual involvement with minors for which he was treated at the House of Affirmation in 1981. Thus, the allegations about behavior that occurred after his treatment were taken quite seriously. Father Burns admits that he has been sexually active with minors after his treatment at the House of Affirmation. He reports he was sexually active with a 14-year-old boy in 1985 and that he has had sexual contact with two boys between 1988 and 1990."

From 1975 to 1981, Burns was a priest with the Archdiocese of Youngstown, Ohio. In 1981 and 1982, he spent time in Northbridge, Mass., at the House of Affirmation getting treatment for pedophilia. In 1986, he began serving as a part-time parochial vicar at St. Mary Church in the Charlestown area of Boston, according to the Clergy Personnel Office of the Boston Archdiocese.

Two other documents in police evidence show Burns was named in two civil complaints - one with an Ohio plaintiff settled in 1990 for $31,000 and one with a Charlestown plaintiff settled in 1992 for between $80,000 and $90,000. Both complaints were sealed.


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