Lawsuits Name Priests, Teacher

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
October 2, 2002

The Rev. Jean-Paul Gagnon, a priest in Millville; Raymond Tremblay of Worcester, a religious education teacher; and the Rev. Henry S. Banach, a retired diocesan priest, have been named in civil suits filed this week in Worcester Superior Court alleging they abused children in their parishes.

Raymond L. Delisle, spokesman for the Catholic Worcester Diocese, which is also named in the suits, said the diocese does not comment on pending lawsuits.

Timothy P. Staney and his parents, Joseph C. and Corinne L. Staney, both teachers in the Worcester public schools, allege in their suit that Rev. Gagnon violated the Confessional, also known to Catholics as the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by using information obtained in the Confessional to set Timothy Staney up as a sex partner for Rev. Gagnon.

Timothy Staney moved to file a suit on his own behalf, but his parents decided to join the suit to set an example that parents must stand with their children against clergy sexual abuse if it is ever to be stopped, according to their lawyer, Daniel J. Shea.

This is the second client Mr. Shea has represented where allegations were made of violation of the Confessional. Karen A. Pedersen of Fitchburg alleges in her suit that the Rev. Robert E. Kelley also used information obtained in the Confessional as a means of sexually abusing her.

"The Catholic church has obviously known that violation of the Confessional is a major problem because Cardinal Ratzinger included this in his secret memo, Crimen Solicitationes, which went out to all the bishops in May 2001," Mr. Shea said. This information also appeared in a 1962 memo to the bishops but was not shared with priests and laity, he said. The Catholic Church considers violation of the Confessional to be a grave issue that can bring sanctions under canon law.

According to the suit, Mr. Tremblay began using his role as religious educator to sexually molest and abuse Mr. Staney in several incidents, beginning in 1980 when he was 10 and a member of Holy Name of Jesus parish. The sexual abuse continued until he was 15.

Mr. Staney, who is now 32, said that the incidents, which included oral and anal penetration and other kinds of "forcible, lewd and lascivious acts," happened at Mr. Tremblay's residence in Worcester and at Holy Name of Jesus Church and school, 51-55 Illinois St., and at other locations. Mr. Tremblay is alleged to have used pornography in the abuse, according to the suit.

Mr. Tremblay also is alleged to have threatened to discredit and intimidate not only Mr. Staney, but his family within the parish community if any of the alleged incidents were revealed, according to the suit. He also threatened to upset and discredit the reputation of the alleged victim and his parents "in the way of careers and social status."

According to the suit, Rev. Gagnon learned of the abuse by Mr. Tremblay when Mr. Staney told him about it during Confession. The priest "armed with that information, in effect, 'took over' from Tremblay as the molester," according to the suit.

Rev. Gagnon then molested and sexually abused Mr. Staney in "multiple incidents" inside the rectory at 51 Illinois St., at the Staney family home in Spencer, and in two incidents at Rev. Gagnon's summer home at Quinebaug Cove Campground, Brimfield, according to the suit. The sexual acts included oral and anal penetration and involved use of alcohol and pornography.

Rev. Gagnon also threatened to discredit Mr. Staney within the parish, starting when Mr. Staney was 14 and into his adult life, if he revealed any of the alleged incidents, according to the suit. He also threatened to discredit and intimidate Mr. Staney's family within the parish and to adversely affect the teaching careers and social status of the parents if he revealed the abuse, according to the suit. It is also alleged that he threatened "the familial accord" of the family if Mr. Staney revealed the abuse.

The suit involving Rev. Banach was filed by lawyer Carmen Durso of Boston using the names John Doe and Robert Doe. Mr. Durso said the men are brothers.

According to the suit, Rev. Banach was assigned to St. Hedwig's parish, Southbridge, when he sexually assaulted and abused the brothers from 1982 to 1988 in the church sacristy and rectory. John Doe was a 12-year-old altar boy at St. Hedwig's when Rev. Banach allegedly began sexually assaulting him in a variety of ways, including genital fondling "and numerous other attempted and threatened acts of assault." The assaults happened in the sacristy, usually before Mass, and at the rectory, according to the suit.

Robert Doe was about 10 and an altar boy in the parish when Rev. Banach began sexually assaulting him, according to the suit. These included repeated acts of genital fondling and other attempted and threatened acts, the suit said. The assaults continued until 1988, according to the suit.

"During those times, when both John and Robert were altar boys together at St. Hedwig's, defendant Banach would attempt to assault the first altar boy whom he could reach. On many occasions, John would put himself in between his brother Robert and defendant Banach in order to protect his younger brother from being assaulted by Banach," the suit said.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.