Meunier: Father Lucien-Luc Meunier

I first heard the name Meunier from a Cornwall victim who told me that he had been sexually abused by a Father Meunier. He had no idea where Meunier was and recalled that Meunier had written a book.I began to search.

I eventually discovered that Meunier’s trail of sexual abuse, destruction, ruined lives and deception warrant a book, and that according to a 2002 Washington Post article Canadian Church officials were aware of sexual abuse allegations against this priest at least by the mid 60s.

For now, here is a very brief account of what I discovered about Father Meunier:

Originally from Granby, Quebec, part of the diocese of Saint Hyacinthe, Meunier seems to have molested his way across Canada and the United States. He became the focus of prolific media coverage in the United States.

Meunier was known to have served in a multitude of parishes including those in Granby, Quebec (Saint Hyacinthe diocese), New Liskeard (Timmins diocese), Marsden, Saskatchewan (Prince Albert diocese), Cut Knife, Saskatchewan (Prince Albert diocese), Prince Rupert, B.C. (Prince Rupert diocese), Trail, B.C., (Nelson diocese) New Denver, B.C., (Nelson diocese) as well as a number in the USA, including those in Lousiania and Tucson, Arizona.   He also spent time in the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall.

There is considerable confusion following Meunier’s whereabouts through Catholic directories alone. For example, in 1967 there is “L. Meunier” in Marsden, Saskatchewan (diocese of Prince Albert), “Lucien Meunier” in Butte St. Pierre (Diocese of Prince Albert) and Lucien-Luc Meunier B.Th, D.S.C. in Matheson, Ontario (Diocese of Timmins). Father Meunier’s writings confirm that he did indeed serve in these various locations and it was determined by various means that each entry was the Lucien-Luc in question.

How Meunier managed to be listed in three locations in the same year is a mystery – perhaps, as in at least one known instance in the mid 50s, he filled in for sick clergy, and perhaps in 1967 he did so in several parishes?  Regardless the following are the listings on Father Meunier in Catholic directories coupled with information drawn from his own accounting of his whereabouts.

27 August 1939: ordained.

1940 – 1944: listed as priest in Chazel, Quebec, Canada (Diocese of Amos)

1945 – 1946: listed as a priest “St. Blaise-de-Barraute,” Quebec, (Diocese of Amos)

1947- 1955: listed as priest in McWatters, Ontario (Diocese of Timmins)

29 November 1951: Obituary in the Granby Leader-Mail re death of his father, Alfredina Meunier on the 28th refers to three sons, one being “Abbe Luc Meunier, pastor of McWatters.”

1955:   a Timmins press clipping reproduced in one of his books references a new church, Mary Queen of Mankind, formed by parishioners of St. Thomas of Canterbury , Matheson, Ontario (Diocese of Timmins). According to this “Rev. Lou Meunier who recently returned from abroad. He worked for his Church in Rome and Paris. This is the third church he has founded. He previously organized the Roman Catholic church in McWatters.”

14 January 1955: North Daily News – New Liskeard, refers to “”Rev. Father Luke Meunier” of Sacred Heart parish in New Liskeard (filling in for an ailing priest) “recently returned from a stay in Europe as Timmins and St. Hyacinthe diocese representative at Marian Year ceremonies.” (a 15 July 1954 clipping in French indicates Father Meunier’s departure for Europe)

1956 – 1964: listed as priest in Matheson, Ontario (Diocese of Timmins)

1957: Seems to have been in the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall – sexual abuse allegations against him probably sometime in 1957 – the victim alleges the abuse extended over a period of six months

(The bishop of the day in the Alexandria-Cornwall diocese was Rosario Brodeur. Bishop Brodeur had close connections to the Sainte Hyancinthe diocese: although his childhood years were spent in the United States and his priestly studies were pursued in Sulpician seminaries in Boston and Baltimore, Brodeur was born in the diocese of Saint Hyacinthe, consecrated as bishop at the Saint Hyacinthe cathedral, and turned to the Sisters of St. Marthe in Saint Hyanciinthe to look after his residence in Alexandria-Cornwall and his newly constructed Our Lady of Fatima Retreat Home.)

06 March 1958: Neilburg Star refers to “Father Luke Meunier” as pastor of St. Charles Church, Marsden, Saskatchewan (Diocese of Prince Albert). Meunier was apparently giving talks in various parishes regarding Pope Pius XII’s birthday and various pronouncements of that pope. Meunier apparently addressed congregations in Freemont (St. Joseph church), Chauvin, Alberta (Archdiocese of Edmonton) and Seagram.

1959: letter reproduced in one of his books is addressed to him at Marsden, Saskatchewan (Diocese of Prince Albert)

•   Meunier wrote a number of books, i.e., Essay on the History of Music (1939), Thou art Peter, (1946), This great straight old man (1958), From Granby to Rome (1959), Common Singing in the Church (1964) Freedom, Yes or No? or a day at the Second Vatican Council (1968), How to Practice Ecumenism (1973) The Legion of Mary in Texas (1975) Miracles in Louisiana? (1980) Charismatic Movement in Louisiana (1980) I have read excerpts from two and must say they are bizarre and replete with self-praise.

•   He studied Gregorian Chant and taught it for two years at the University of Montreal. He apparently also taught voice, loved to sing and was an accomplished organist.

• Meunier was know variously as Father Luke Lucien Meunier, Father Lucien Meunier, Father Pedro Luke, Father L. Lou Meunier and also, it is believed, as Father Lucien Meunier de la Pierre.

•   He was an active Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus.

• He gave missions all over the world and conducted pilgrimages to various congresses .

•   He attended the Second Vatican Council as assistant to several Canadian bishops, one of whom was Bishop Lionel Audet (Quebec Archdiocese). At this time I do not know the names of the others, but I do know that in 1980 Bishop Georges Leon Pelletier (Three Rivers, Quebec) wrote in the Foreward to Miracles in Lousiana? ”You were one of the few priests working at Vatican Council II, with all the Bishops of the earth, 2,867, in 1965 in Rome, Italy, where we helped each other, I do remember so well.”

• On 12 February 1990 the British Columbia Report published an article about Meunier titled, “Descent into depravity: the search for a perverted priest discloses a trial of abuse suicide, blasphemy”

•   Several of Meunier’s victims committed suicide: at least one left a suicide note.

•   According to one account (Palm Beach Post, 13 January 1990) one alleged victim, probably from Saskatchewan, wrote that he had been molested by Meunier a number of time in 1957 and 1958, usually in a car or rectory “he did not talk about sex, but talked of how God had given these beautiful things . . . to enjoy.” The victim wrote: Father Meunier told me that it was God’s will that I should do this for him, and that it was just like a confessional where no one is supposed to tell anyone […] he would then say short little prayers of praise.”

•   The same article in the Palm Beach Post reported that another victim, then a medical student in Vancouver, said in a sworn statement that Meunier molested him at the dining room table while the family gathered for dinner: “After saying grace and during the course of the dinner . . . Meunier had me masturbate him.”

•   The Post also reports the allegations of a British Columbia man who alleged that Meunier molested him numerous times in 1969 while he was an altar boy. The incidents occurred in the sacristy after Meunier had finished saying Mass. Afterwards, the man wrote: “He would say a prayer or two out loud and bow his head.”

•   According to a 2002 Washington Post article Canadian Church officials were aware of sexual abuse allegations against Meunier at least by the mid 60s.

•   Meunier was convicted on sexual abuse charges in the Tucson, Arizona area in 1976

•   In 1980 Meunier was listed as “Director, Mohawk Historical and Fine Arts Society, St. Patrick Church, Three Rivers (Trois-Rivieres), Quebec (Diocese of Trois Rivieres).

•   In January 1990 Meunier was ordered extradited from the United States to Canada to stand trial in Nelson, B.C. on eight counts of indecent assault and gross indecency. According to the extradition request Meunier was accused of molesting at least seven boys and one girl while he was parish priest in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. At the time, according to Nelson Crown attorney Dana Urban, Muenier was under investigation by Canadian authorities in three provinces.

•   Meunier died of a hear attack in a U.S. holding cell days before he was to be extradited.

After the Payout, Pain and Confusion Linger

Settlements Sometimes Settle Little for Victims of Abuse by Priests Albert Coderre, a Tucson resident, recently won a large settlement from the Catholic Church. (Norma Jean Gargasz – Tucson Citizen)

By David Finkel

Washington Post Staff Writer

Saturday, June 22, 2002; Page A01

TUCSON — There are some things Albert Coderre remembers about the day he became a millionaire and some things he does not.

He remembers he had to borrow a car to get to his lawyer’s office because he had sold his to pay overdue bills.

He doesn’t remember the exact time he arrived — he had sold his watch as well — or the date, other than it was near the end of March, which was two months after the settlement of a lawsuit he was part of against the Diocese of Tucson and 27 years after he was a fifth-grade student being summoned into a vacant room by a priest named Father Luke.

He does remember thinking briefly about Father Luke, whom he had described in a deposition as having “a chubby face, a big nose [and] a pot belly,” but not specifically about what he had further described in the deposition, how Father Luke “took my hand and said, ‘We’re going to pray.’ “

He does remember walking up to his lawyer’s office as another of the plaintiffs emerged with “this huge grin, he’s got this death grip on his check and he starts running down the street.” But he doesn’t remember his own reaction when he was given his own settlement check, even when prompted with his lawyer’s recollection that “he cried” and said, “God bless you.”

He doesn’t remember crying. He doesn’t remember a lot of things. He doesn’t remember much of middle school or high school. He doesn’t remember much of his first marriage or hopscotching from job to job until he was a 37-year-old man without a car, and he doesn’t remember invoking God, not even silently in prayer, which he has done only sporadically since Father Luke.

He does remember what it felt like to go outside, suddenly rich. “It’s over,” he remembers thinking. “Everything’s going to be rosy.”

Ten weeks later, Coderre has come to understand it isn’t over at all. What are the healing powers of money? What does it solve? How does it complicate? Those are the questions Coderre now finds himself taking on — questions that will be asked more and more as the Roman Catholic Church’s sex-abuse scandal moves from revelation to compensation.

Already this year several hundred new lawsuits have been filed against dioceses across the United States, meaning the hundreds of millions of dollars the church says it has paid out over the years to settle abuse cases could conceivably go into the billions.

Forgiveness may be one topic in the United States’ 178 mainstream Roman Catholic dioceses on the subject of pedophile priests, but the conversations these days are also about attorney costs, insurance policies, bankruptcy possibilities, contingency plans and settlement strategies.

Money, in other words, which the victims are thinking about, too. For them, however, this new landscape is less about an institutional reaction, such as last week’s meeting of bishops in Dallas to formulate a new policy for dealing with abusive priests, than navigating the uncertainties of a new day.

‘Need for Retribution’

“I didn’t know what to do first,” Coderre said. So he went to a friend’s house and helped him with a broken car. And then he deposited the check. And then in the coming days he bought a used truck for himself, and a used SUV with lighted running boards and enough leather seats for him, his wife and his four children from various marriages. And then he paid off his modest, scuffed-up house. And his father’s house. And he paid the overdue bills and the overdue child support, which his first wife had been kind enough to let slide. And bought a watch for himself off eBay, a Rolex that was similar to the one he had won for being salesman of the month at a Honda dealership, the high point of his working life. All that — and he still had more money left than he had ever imagined.

How much? He can’t say because of a confidentiality clause in the settlement, but no one involved in the case disputes a published figure of $15 million to settle 11 lawsuits against the Tucson Diocese and a total of four priests, three who worked directly for the diocese and one who was visiting.

That was Father Luke, who was born in 1915, was ordained in 1939, traveled as a “pilgrim” priest from diocese to diocese, showed up in Tucson with reddish-orange hair that was often tucked into a hair net or a woman’s stocking, and is now presumed dead. Assuming the settlement money was split evenly among the 11 cases, that would mean Coderre’s payment, before lawyer’s fees, was $1.36 million.

“Forty thousand,” he says when asked about the most money he ever earned in a year.

Such sudden upheaval was one of the concerns of Lawrence Fleischman, who mediated the settlement. After being involved in 4,000 settlements of all types, Fleischman says, the one lesson he has learned is: “People often say, ‘I’m not here for the money. It’s not about the money.’ The reality is, it’s always about the money.”

Except, he says, in this case. Unlike other cases, where a lawsuit comes from an event such as an airplane crash, these resulted from encounters so intimate they led to feelings of guilt, in some cases, and in some cases shame. “There was a justifiable need for retribution,” Fleischman says of what the plaintiffs were after. “They were done wrong, and they felt strongly about the fact that, in their view at least, they hadn’t been paid attention to.”

So an apology by the diocese to the victims, one public, another private, was built into the settlement agreement. As was a confidentiality agreement, partly at the behest of the plaintiffs, who didn’t want the dollar amount publicly known, and partly at the behest of the diocese, which wanted all of its internal documents detailing finances and its own investigation into the allegations to remain private.

Done and done, and then came the money, “life-changing money,” as Fleischman puts it, which led to negotiations he describes as “more difficult than most.”

Problem one: setting an amount that was large enough for what Lynne Cadigan, the plaintiffs’ attorney, calls “symbolic punishment” but that diocese spokesman Fred Allison says “would allow the diocese to continue to exist” instead of being bankrupted.

Problem two: the diocese and insurance companies battling it out over who would pay how much of the negotiated amount. “Forty lawyers or so,” Fleischman says, recalling the last session before the agreement was reached.

Problem three: Fleischman’s concern that plaintiffs “rarely think about the day after settlement.” Recalling a study that concluded most settlement money is gone within five years, Fleischman suggested a staggered schedule of payments and mandated investments in annuities. Most of the plaintiffs, however, wanted the money up front, so after setting aside a small portion for annuities for some of the plaintiffs, Fleischman signed off on the deal with the private hope that “they’re not going out and buying new Corvettes.”

“Nope. Trucks,” Lynne Cadigan says of what her clients have been more inclined to spend money on.

The man who went running down the street as Coderre arrived for his check? “He bought a dualie,” she says, referring to a heavy-duty pickup he could use to tow the rundown trailer he lives in from campground to campground.

Others, she says, are lending it to friends, investing it with relatives, drinking it.

One, she heard, bought a boat.

And one, with a particular mixture of sweetness and guilt, she says, took $80,000 and donated it back to the church.

The point, she says, is that this is complicated money. How else to explain the reaction of an abuse victim in another case who wouldn’t pick up her settlement check for six months? “Because you know why?” Cadigan says. “Because she thought the priest loved her and she felt guilty. She felt like it was a betrayal of their love. She was very depressed and very sad, and she said, ‘I know I’m being very strange about this. I need to get into therapy.’ “

A Pattern of Abuse

Which is what Albert Coderre decided, too.

Another thing he can remember: that he was once happy. He grew up in a house with a mother who stayed home and a father who was in the military and three trees in the back yard that were planted by his parents and named for each of their three children. A tree named Albert to sit under, grandparents next door, prayers every night, church every Sunday — that was his life in September 1966 when, far away, up in Canada, the head priest in a Catholic diocese was writing a letter about a priest named Lucien-Luc Meunier.

“Yesterday, September 1st 1966, Father Meunier took a boy of 9 years of age to the zoo in Granby, and touched the boy in ways that are condemnable from every point of view,” the letter said. “Father Meunier . . . admitted having caressed the boy. He further [said] he would disappear from Granby.”

Coderre, then, was 2 years old.

The next letter about Father Luke, dated March 11, 1967, this from the same head priest and sent to an auxiliary bishop in Sudbury, Ontario, who was asking about him, said, “We did not wish to push the inquiry deeper because Father left the diocese. I can honestly say, however, that this was the first complaint of this nature against him. Perhaps these caresses were not all that serious . . . we don’t know.”

Coderre, by then, had just turned 3.

Another letter, this one dated March 13, 1972, and written by the bishop in Pueblo, Colo.: “Following the revelation to his parents of the advances made by Father Meunier on at least four different occasions by a ten year-old boy, the pastor of St. Mary parish, Walsenburg, Colorado, with my assistance, made arrangements for Father Meunier to go to Via Coeli, Jemez Springs, New Mexico. . . . Father Meunier did not arrive in Jemez Springs; and presumably is somewhere in the United States or in Canada as a potential source of great harm to young boys and as a source of great sorrow to parents of these boys.”

This was followed by another letter a week later: “Father Meunier has a problem in his relationship with boys,” said the letter, which was sent to Joseph Bernardin, then the general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in Washington. “If you think that this information should be given to the bishops of the United States, you may advise them confidentially.”

Now Coderre was 8.

March 11, 1974: “Dear Father Meunier,” began the letter from a church official in Tucson. “I am happy to extend to you the faculties of the Diocese of Tucson. . . .”

Now Coderre was 10, which was when his family switched churches to Our Mother of Sorrow, which is where Coderre entered the altar boy program, which is how Coderre met Father Luke in May or June 1975. Unwelcome in Granby, unwelcome in Sudbury, unwelcome in Colorado, Meunier was welcome at Our Mother of Sorrows, where he approached an 11-year-old boy and invited him into a room behind the altar.

“He took my hand and said, ‘We’re going to pray,’ ” Coderre said in his deposition, “and then he put my hands under his robe.”

By Coderre’s recollection, Meunier came after him several times as he ended fifth grade and so often in September, when sixth grade began, that he finally said something to his parents, who said something to the head priest at the church, who came to the Coderre household and said, as Coderre remembers it, “that I was lying.”

And with that, Father Luke disappeared from Albert Coderre’s life, in fact and for a long time in memory.

Records indicate he was convicted in 1976 of molesting two brothers in a small town outside Tucson, was sentenced to prison, was hospitalized in an Arizona state mental-health facility — and was released after two years with his civil rights restored, the judgment of guilt vacated and all charges against him dismissed. The records don’t explain why this happened or what happened to him after that, except for a brief memo in 1978 from a church secretary at Our Mother of Sorrows to the head priest that said, “Did you know that Fr. Meunier is back in town?????? . . . Oh, the joys of life.”

As for Coderre:

“It was in my sixth-grade year that I started smoking pot and drinking alcohol,” he said in his deposition, and things got only worse from there. Seventh grade: new school, but more drinking and drugs. High school: more of the same, now nearly every day. After high school: worse and worse, he says, 12 beers a day, whatever drugs he could afford, through an aimless succession of jobs, through one marriage and into another, until November 1997, when his wife came home and found him in the kitchen, drunk, high on cocaine and methamphetamines, a knife against his wrist, sawing into it.

A few days after that he was hospitalized; a few days after that he was in a group therapy session listening to other men talk about being abused when he began remembering details of Father Luke; two years after that he was at home, watching TV, when on came a news report about a lawsuit against Our Mother of Sorrows alleging sexual abuse. And soon after, last Nov. 9, a plaintiff now, everything came to a breaking point for him when he was being deposed.

It wasn’t the description of the abuse that did it as the deposition progressed, or the questions from the diocese’s lawyer about why he didn’t say anything sooner, which led him to think, “Yeah, why didn’t I tell somebody?” which led to the thought, “It’s my fault that it happened.” It was a photograph.

“I asked to get whatever photos were available from Our Mother of Sorrows,” the diocese’s lawyer said to him. “There’s two classes here for 1975. And can you tell me whether you are in either of those photos?”

He passed the photos to Coderre, who looked them over until he found a boy in brown pants and a red-checked shirt who was the middle person in the middle row, the boy who Albert Coderre was in the last moments before he became what he became.

“That’s me,” he said.

“. . . directly in line with that sign?” the lawyer asked.

“Uh-huh.”

“You have to answer audibly, sir,” the lawyer said.

Now his own lawyer spoke up.

“Record should reflect the witness is crying,” he said. “That’s why he wasn’t responding audibly.”

The deposition ended. Coderre went home. Fell into a depression. Quit working. Stayed inside. Kept falling apart. Got a phone call. Borrowed a car. Went to his lawyer’s. And walked outside with the sudden feeling that everything was going to be fine, and a million dollars — money that now pays for every aspect of his life.

It pays for his cars.

It pays his electric bill.

It pays his water bill.

It pays for his gasoline, his mobile telephone, his groceries, the vacation for his wife and children, the 12-pack of Diet Coke he drinks every day now that he no longer drinks alcohol, the cigarettes he can’t seem to stop smoking, and the painter who is painting his old scuffed house and saying he’ll have to knock off early because it’s Wednesday and Wednesday night is church night and “if I don’t go I’ll get beat up,” and of course doesn’t notice when Coderre winces — something Coderre does whenever he hears the word “church.” “Still,” he says, shaking his head, amazed at what goes on in his mind.

And that’s the other thing money pays for — therapy. “I should have had it when I was 10,” he says. He paid the bills, felt better, didn’t, bought the cars, felt better, didn’t, and now what he does is go to therapy, at least once a week and often more, to “figure out what happened in my life,” he says, “and why I’m not happy.”

Twenty-seven years after being abused and 10 weeks into his new life, that’s what he’s learnig money can mean. He can go to therapy as often as he wants.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company

U.S. Extradites priest to face charges here

The Vancouver Sun

13 January 1990

A retired Catholic priest was ordered extradited to Canada from the United States on Friday to stand trial on charges he molested six boys – sometimes at the church and rectory – while he worked as a parish priest in rural British Columbia.

Fathier Lucien Meunier, 74, who appeared in federal court in West Palm Beach, Fla., will return to Nelson, B.C., where he was charged Oct. 27, 1989, with seven counts of indecent assault and gross indecency.

The charges stem from acts which allegedly occurred during the 1950s and 1960s.

Lawyers for Meunier asked U.S. Magistrate Ann Vitunac to excuse Meunier from the hearing because his emphysema made him too ill to attend.

But Vitunac required him to be present, ruling prosecutors had to see him in order to prove his identity.

“This court finds probable cause to believe Mr. Meunier committed the offences with which he is charged,” Vitunac said. “Perhaps I, too, would be ill if I had to confront these deeds in court.”

According to sworn statements attached to the extradition request, Meunier molested at least seven boys and one girl when he worked as a parish priest in B.C. and Saskatchewan. Many of the alleged incidents occurred at the church and rectory.

One man, who is now an orthotic technician in Grandora, Sask., said Meunier, who was his priest, molested him between 15 and 20 times in 1957 and 1958, usually in a car or in the rectory.

While Meunier fondled him, “he did not talk about sex, but talked of how God had given these beautiful things . . . to enjoy.”

“Father Meunier told me that it was God’s will that I should do this for him and that it was just like a confessional where no one is supposed to tell anyone,” the man wrote in a sworn statement Dec. 29. After having oral sex, “he would then say short little prayers of praise,” the man said.

Citing Meunier’s illness, lawyers asked Vitunac to order he be able to see a doctor at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Miami before extradition – and that he be transported quickly to Canada.

“The defendant, Luke Meunier, is ordered to be held in custody by the U.S. Marshals to be turned over to Canada for trial in the case,” Vitunac said. “I will ask that extradition be expedited.”

“You want to kill me, your honor,” Meunier shouted as soon as she was finished talking.

Meunier was arrested by the U.S. Marshal’s Service Dec. 1 at a Burger King restaurant in Lake Worth, Fla.

Deputy Marshal Thomas Bezanson testified Friday that Meunier told him he was a parish priest “in the area” but would not specify which church.

The object of a one-year search by Canadian police, Meunier has served as a priest in New Denver, Trail, Prince Rupert and Kelowna, as well as Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec, Colorado and Virginia. He was charged in Arizona with sexually abusing children and jumped a $100,000 bail bond in 1975.