Religious Order That Owns Nashua School Sued

Associated Press State & Local Wire
February 12, 2003

A religious order that owns a Roman Catholic school in Nashua had a "lax and tolerant attitude" about teachers accused of molesting minors, a class-action lawsuit filed Wednesday charges.

Manchester lawyer Peter Hutchins sued on behalf of all New Hampshire residents who say they were molested by members of the Order of the Sacred Heart, a Rhode Island-based order that runs Bishop Guertin High School.

David Pinsonneault, one of the order's lawyers, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

The suit, filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Manchester, names three men who say they were molested by Brother Guy Beaulieu while attending the school during the 1970s. Hutchins said the number of alleged victims likely is much larger.

"Because of the lax and tolerant attitude of the order ... toward sexual abuse, and because of the tendency of sexual abusers to have multiple victims, there is reason to believe the total number of class victims will far exceed the individual victims of this sexual abuse that have been identified to date," Hutchins wrote.

Beaulieu did not immediately return a telephone call.

In the lawsuit, Hutchins says members of the order have abused minors for more than 60 years, a period when the order owned several schools around New England.

Hutchins said he is considering expanding the lawsuit to include Rhode Island and Massachusetts. He said he already represents alleged victims of members of the order in both states.

Much of the lawsuit is based on earlier allegations against Beaulieu and Brother Roger Argencourt, a Bishop Guertin teacher who died in September.

In a deposition for another lawsuit against him, Beaulieu said he molested 15 to 20 Bishop Guertin students. Beaulieu taught at Bishop Guertin from 1971 to 1991.

In the lawsuit, Hutchins said leaders of the order, including Brother Leo Labbe, the former president of Bishop Guertin, knew as early as 1971 about allegations against Beaulieu, but failed to discipline or supervise him.

Labbe stepped down in December after a man filed a lawsuit accusing him of molesting him more than 40 years ago. Labbe denies it.

Argencourt left Bishop Guertin in January 2002 when an Afton, Va., man accused him of raping and molesting him as many as 40 times in 1974, once allegedly in front of another teacher.

Argencourt admitted to the abuse in court documents, but was not charged because the statute of limitations had expired. He also told police he assaulted another New Hampshire student around the same time.

"The fact there are so many victims, as Brother Guy himself admitted, demonstrates how rampant this problem was at Bishop Guertin and within this order for so many years, which makes a class-action all the more appropriate," Hutchins said.

A judge must decide whether the lawsuit merits class-action status.

Though international, the order is divided into autonomous provinces. The New England province, the subject of Hutchins' lawsuit, also operates Mount St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket, R.I., and formerly owned schools in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut. Members of the order also have taught at a Catholic summer camp in Gilmanton. The camp is owned by the Diocese of Manchester.

Defendants in the lawsuit are Bishop Guertin, the order, Labbe, Beaulieu and Brother Ronald Dupuis, a former superior of the order.


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