Athol Priest to Battle Allegations
Petitions Support Rev. Messier

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
June 12, 2002

The Rev. Raymond P. Messier, who was removed from his parishes in Athol and Petersham last week after an allegation of sexual misconduct was made to the Catholic Diocese of Worcester, plans to fight to clear his name.

The priest has retained lawyer Robert Casey of Harvard. Family members said at least three petitions are circulating in the Athol and Petersham area that will go to Bishop Daniel P. Reilly. The signers are attesting to Rev. Messier's good character and opposing his removal from the parishes.

Rev. Messier, in a telephone interview last night, said he has been told not to speak publicly on his situation and to refer calls to his lawyer. His lawyer was not available last night. Rev. Messier has left the rectory in Athol and is staying elsewhere.

He is the first of six priests removed from active priesthood this year to assert his innocence and try to clear his name.

Michelle Marcustry of Douglas, a niece, said she was appalled by the allegation made against her uncle. She questioned why the woman who made the allegation and the woman's son do not reveal their names.

"If this was true, why is it the mother and not the son coming forward?" she said.

One of Rev. Messier's big worries when the allegation surfaced was that he would not be able to take his dog with him if he was forced to leave the rectory, Ms. Marcustry said. The dog was allowed to go with her uncle, who is staying with a friend, she said.

"He has an impeccable record of nearly 33 years with the chancery and priesthood," she said.

"I remember as a kid he took some underprivileged kids out to buy Christmas presents for them and one child wanted to forfeit his gift so he could get his mom a watch. He bought the watch and the child a gift," she said. "Does this sound like a priest who would do something bad to a child?"

Rev. Messier, who was ordained in Worcester in 1968, was removed by Bishop Reilly on Friday, after an investigation by the diocese into an allegation that the priest molested a 9-year-old boy around 1980 at a camp in Charlton.

Carmen Durso, a Boston lawyer representing the mother of the boy, said the story from the mother was backed up by the boy's therapist. The mother has not wanted her name made public.

She told Mr. Durso a meeting was held after the alleged incident at Worcester Youth Guidance that was attended by her, the therapist, Rev. Messier and then-Bishop Timothy J. Harrington. She said the bishop said Rev. Messier would not be put in a position to be near children again.

Rev. Messier has been serving as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish, Athol, and St. Peter's parish, Petersham. He was the Athol Fire Department chaplain.


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