Embattled Priest Files for Bankruptcy

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
November 29, 2002

WORCESTER- The Rev. Raymond P. Messier, who in June was removed from his pastorships in Athol and Petersham by Bishop Daniel P. Reilly because of sexual abuse allegations, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

A hearing on the petition has been set for 11 a.m. Dec. 23 in the court trustee's office at 600 Main St., Suite 202. The bankruptcy petition was filed by Rev. Messier Nov. 15.

Boston lawyer Carmen L. Durso said the bankruptcy has frozen his lawsuits against Rev. Messier, and the court actions in Worcester Superior Court cannot continue until the bankruptcy issues are resolved. "This in no way affects our claims against the Worcester Diocese," he said.

Rev. Messier and the diocese have been named in two civil lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of three area men by Rev. Messier. The men are not named in the complaints but are listed only as Doe, Roe and Coe.

Two of the incidents are alleged to have occurred in 1976 and 1977, involving two 12-year-old boys at Joan of Arc Parish and at a camp Rev. Messier owned in Charlton.

The other complaint alleges he molested a 9-year-old boy at the Charlton camp around 1981 when he was at Sacred Heart Parish in Worcester.

Mr. Durso, who is representing the alleged victims, said he will contest the bankruptcy. He has retained lawyer David M. Nickless of Fitchburg, who has experience with bankruptcy law, to handle the issues regarding this bankruptcy.

"The abuse of my clients by Father Messier involved intentional acts and these are not subject to the bankruptcy laws," he said.

He said he believes Rev. Messier is attempting to evade responsibility for his actions in case a judgment is entered against him in the suits.

"I am contesting this bankruptcy for two reasons. One is to protect my clients. The other is to send a message that accused priests cannot evade responsibility merely by declaring bankruptcy," he said.

Rev. Messier is listed in the bankruptcy court documents as living in Charlton. Mr. Durso said Rev. Messier owns property in Charlton.

The priest has a corps of supporters at St. Francis Parish in Athol and St. Peter's Parish in Petersham, where he last served, and fund-raising events have been held on his behalf.

Mr. Durso said all money raised for Rev. Messier by his supporters is now subject to jurisdiction of the bankruptcy court. The court could order the money be used to satisfy creditors, he said. Once the bankruptcy proceedings are resolved, he could move to attach the money if there is anything left, he added.

Other priests have declared bankruptcy amid allegations and lawsuits involving sexual abuse.


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