Lawyer Says Former Bishop Destroyed Records of Abusive Priest
January 6, 2003
The former bishop of New Hampshire destroyed church records in the late 1980s that detailed sexual abuse of children by two Roman Catholic priests, according to court records.
The records indicate that Odore Gendron, the bishop of the Diocese of Manchester from 1975 to 1990, destroyed documents in one case at the request of the accused priest and in the other at the request of a facility treating a priest for sexual misconduct.
Plaintiff lawyer Mark Abramson, who represents about 60 people alleging sexual misconduct by priests, said in a motion filed late last week that the destruction of records amounts to fraudulent concealment and suspends the statute of limitations.
The motion came in response to the diocese's request to dismiss his lawsuits, arguing that the statute of limitations has expired. A judge has yet to rule on the matter.
Patrick McGee, spokesman for the diocese, said Gendron did destroy the documents in question because they were private medical records and were made available to the diocese only on condition they be destroyed. He said the intent never was to cover up allegations of abuse.
"If the intent were to destroy any record of that, then that letter itself would not be in there," he said. He also said he did not know how to reach Gendron, who is retired.
Evidence of the destruction is contained in letters Gendron wrote in 1986 and 1989, the motion said. Copies of the letters were attached to the court filing.
In the first letter, Gendron assured the Rev. Philip Petit that he would "certainly destroy all documents, notes, etc., referring to your treatment" for sexual misconduct.
The letter went on to say Gendron had kept one letter from Petit's file that included a doctor's report saying the priest was making progress and that a sexual incident in Dover was isolated.
"With the exception of this particular document, everything else has been destroyed," Gendron wrote.
In 1989, Gendron responded to a request by a New Mexico treatment center for priests that an evaluation of the Rev. Gordon MacRae be destroyed. In his letter, the bishop said he would do as requested.
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