Guilty plea to sex abuse of 18 boys in Archdiocese of Boston
Ordained: 05 January 1963 (possibly in Springfield, Mass.)
1967-1968: teaching at Classical College in Cornwall, a school operated by the Clerics of St. Viateur (Viatorians)Cornwall
1968: the Cornwall Classical College closed its doors.
around 1969: Father Paul Desilets surfaced in the Boston Archdiocese
1973-1974: listed in directory at Marlborough, Mass.,USA (Archdiocese of Boston)
1974-1984: priest a Our Lady of Assumption, Bellingham, Mass., USA (Archdiocese of Boston)
around 1984: returned to Canada. Served as priest at the popular Notre Dame de Lourdes shrine in Rigaud, Quebec, a small community which neighbours the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall. Desilet’s order, the Clerics of St. Viateur (or St. Viator: Viatorians), run the shrine, a school and other facilities in Rigaud. Desilets served as a priest at the shrine for years, hearing confessions, saying Masses and providing spiritual direction. His superiors, aware of sexual abuse allegations against him, said that it was felt the Shrine would be a good place for Desilets because he would interacting with adults and not around children. Children, however, are known to accompany their parents to the shrine.
Retired priest who abused boys is allowed to return to Canada
Rev. Desilets, 82, finishes sentence
Worecester Telegram and Gazettte
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
WORCESTER— An 82-year-old retired priest released from state prison yesterday after serving a sentence for sexually assaulting altar boys at a Bellingham parish more than 20 years ago will be allowed to return to his religious order in Canada.
Judge Jeffrey A. Locke has not yet ruled on whether the Rev. Paul M. Desilets, now on probation, will still be required to undergo sex-offender treatment, as previously ordered by the court.
Rev. Desilets was sentenced to 1 to 1-1/2 years in state prison on May 11, 2005, after pleading guilty in Worcester Superior Court to multiple counts of indecent assault and battery on a child, indecent assault and battery and assault and battery. The Catholic priest admitted assaulting 18 male victims from 1978 to 1984, when they were altar boys at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Bellingham and he was associate pastor.
In addition to imposing the state prison sentence under a plea agreement in the case, Judge Timothy S. Hillman, now a federal magistrate judge, placed Rev. Desilets on probation for 10 years, to begin upon his release from custody. As conditions of probation, Rev. Desilets was ordered to stay away from his victims, to have no unsupervised contact with anyone under age 18 and to undergo a sex-offender evaluation and any related treatment recommended by the court’s Probation Department.
Last Wednesday, five days before Rev. Desilets was scheduled to be released from the state prison in Shirley upon completion of his sentence, his lawyer filed a motion asking that the conditions of the retired cleric’s probation be amended. Lawyer Dennis J. Kelly asked that Rev. Desilets be excused from sex-offender counseling because of his advanced age and failing health and that he be allowed to move to Canada to live in an infirmary at his religious order, Les Clercs de St. Viateur in Joliette, province of Quebec. Mr. Kelley also requested that Rev. Desilets’ probation be changed from supervised to administrative, which would allow him to report to his probation officer by mail or telephone, rather than in person.
Chief Probation Officer Thomas A. Turco III told Judge Locke last week that he was trying to determine whether probation officials in Canada would be willing to take over supervision of Rev. Desilets’ case. Mr. Turco said Rev. Desilets should be required to complete the sex offender treatment across the border if Canada agreed to accept the transfer of supervision.
Assistant Chief Probation Officer Jean M. Orawsky told the judge yesterday that her office had still not received an answer to its transfer request. Ms. Orawsky also told Judge Locke it was likely that Rev. Desilets, whose plans to live with a relative after his release from prison fell through, would end up living in a shelter without monitoring or medical assistance if he were not allowed to move back to Canada. Rev. Desilets was extradited from Canada in 2005 after being indicted in 2002.
The retired priest appeared in court yesterday in a wheelchair. His lawyer has said he is suffering from diabetes, anemia, cataracts, episodes of vertigo and loss of consciousness and chronic pain related to a bout with polio as a child.
As a condition of allowing Rev. Desilets to return to the religious order he joined at age 16, Judge Locke had the Rev. Hubert Hamelin, one of two priests who were in court ready to accompany Rev. Desilets back to Les Clercs de St. Viateur, sign a written acceptance of “custodianship.” Rev. Hamelin, assistant provincial superior of the order, agreed to notify probation officials here in the event Rev. Desilets leaves the religious community or has contact with anyone under age 18.
The judge had Rev. Desilets sign a waiver of his right to extradition proceedings should authorities here demand his return to Massachusetts.
Rev. Desilets was ordered to return to court Dec. 22 for another hearing. Judge Locke said he would decide at that time whether to exempt Rev. Desilets from sex-offender counseling or change the status of his probaton from supervised to administrative.
Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey T. Travers said three of Rev. Desilets’ victims he was able to reach opposed any changes in the terms of probation.
Decision on priest delayed
Exemption from sex offender counseling is sought
21 October 2006
By Gary V. Murray Worcester TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
WORCESTER— A judge postponed action yesterday on an 82-year-old retired priest’s request that he not be required to undergo sex offender counseling as a condition of his probation on sexual assault charges.
Dennis J. Kelly, a lawyer representing the Rev. Paul M. Desilets, told Judge Jeffrey A. Locke during a hearing in Worcester Superior Court that his client is too old and sick to take part in a sex offender treatment program when he is released from prison Monday.
Rev. Desilets was sentenced to one year to one and a half years in state prison on May 11, 2005, after pleading guilty to charges of sexually assaulting 18 male victims from 1978 to 1984 in Bellingham. The victims were altar boys at Our Lady of the Assumption parish in Bellingham at the time of the assaults, and Rev. Desilets was associate pastor there.
In addition to imposing the state prison sentence, Judge Timothy S. Hillman, now a federal magistrate judge, placed the retired Roman Catholic priest on probation for 10 years, to begin upon his release from custody. As conditions of probation, Rev. Desilets was ordered to undergo a sex offender evaluation and any related treatment deemed appropriate by probation officials, to have no contact with his victims, and to have no unsupervised contact with anyone under age 18.
Mr. Kelly filed a motion Wednesday asking that Rev. Desilets, who plans to live in an infirmary at Les Clercs de St. Viateur, a religious community in Joliette, Quebec, Canada, be exempted from sex offender treatment because of his age and failing health. The lawyer also asked that Rev. Desilets’ probation be changed from supervised to administrative, which would allow him to report to his probation officer by telephone or mail, rather than in person.
Mr. Kelly told Judge Locke yesterday that his client, who appeared in court in a wheelchair, is suffering from diabetes, anemia, cataracts, episodes of vertigo, momentary loss of consciousness, and pain in his right hip and knee related to a bout with polio as a child.
Mr. Kelly, who said in his motion that Rev. Desilets is “too elderly and infirm” to participate in sex offender counseling, said the treatment would serve no useful purpose because the retired priest would be confined to the infirmary and is already under order to have no contact with children.
The lawyer said the religious order in Canada has agreed to care for Rev. Desilets for the rest of his life and that the retired priest, who was extradited from Canada in 2005 after being indicted three years earlier, “might be relegated to being a street person” if not allowed to return.
Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey T. Travers, who prosecuted the sexual assault case, said he opposed any changes in the terms of Rev. Desilets’ probation in the absence of more detailed information about his medical condition. The prosecutor said he would leave the retired priest’s request to go to Canada to the discretion of the court, provided Rev. Desilets signs a written waiver of extradition to ensure his return if he violates his probation.
Chief Probation Officer Thomas A. Turco III said he hasn’t learned whether or not probation officials in Canada will take over supervision of Rev. Desilets. He said he would oppose exempting Rev. Desilets from sex offender counseling if Canadian officials agree to provide only “courtesy supervision,” instead of strict supervision.
Judge Locke continued the matter until Monday and ordered Rev. Desilets to report to the court’s Probation Department after he is released from custody. The judge said he would be inclined to allow Rev. Desilets to go to Canada, provided he signs a waiver of extradition that is enforceable in the Canadian courts.
The judge postponed action on Rev. Desilets’ requests to be exempted from sex offender treatment and to have his probation changed from supervised to administrative. Judge Locke said he might impose “custodianship” on the representatives of Les Clercs de St. Viateur, who are expected to accompany Rev. Desilets to Canada, so they would be obligated to serve as “agents” of the Probation Department while the motion is pending.
In a press release issued yesterday, Barbara Blaine of Chicago, national president of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said she hopes Rev. Desilets’ request to be excused from sex offender treatment will be turned down.
“Child molesters often exaggerate their ailments, ask for special privileges, and try to avoid therapy. In many instances, they concoct reasons why they shouldn’t have to abide by the same rules as others. And in many situations, church officials have claimed they’ll keep pedophile priests away from kids, only to ignore those promises later,” Ms. Blaine said.
“Knee pain and advanced age don’t magically cure child molesters. We hope the judge will err on the side of caution and reject Father Desilets’ requst. The safety of many innocent young kids should take priority over the preferences of one convicted adult criminal,” Ms. Blaine said.
Priest With Ties To Cornwall Tries To Get Out Of Sex Offender Treatment
Cornwall News AM 1220
October 20, 2006 — A priest who taught at Cornwall’s classical college in the late 1960’s is trying to get out of court-ordered sex offender treatment. According to a story from the Associated Press, Father Paul Desilets says he’s too old and sick. The 82 year old priest has spent over a year in a U.S. prison after pleading guilty to molesting boys at a Massachusetts church more than 20 years ago.
He’s up for release Monday and plans to return to his religious community in Queec. A hearing is set to take place in a U.S. court today. Desilets lawyer says the treatment would serve no purpose since his client will not be in a position to have contact with children.
Lawyer argues priest is infirm
Probation change sought
20 October 2006
By Gary V. Murray (Worcester, Mass. TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF)
WORCESTER— An 82-year-old retired priest about to be released from prison after being convicted of molesting young boys more than 20 years ago is too old and too sick to take part in a sex-offender treatment program as ordered by the court, according to his lawyer.
The Rev. Paul M. Desilets, known to his victims as “Father Hands,” was sentenced to 1 to 1-1/2 years in state prison on May 11, 2005, after pleading guilty in Worcester Superior Court to multiple counts of indecent assault and battery on a child, indecent assault and battery, and assault and battery. The sentence was imposed by Judge Timothy S. Hillman after Rev. Desilets admitted sexually assaulting 18 male victims from 1978 to 1984, when they were altar boys at Our Lady of the Assumption parish in Bellingham and he was associate pastor there.
In addition to imposing the prison term, Judge Hillman, now a federal magistrate judge, placed Rev. Desilets on probation for 10 years following his release from custody. As conditions of probation, the retired Roman Catholic priest was ordered to have no contact with his victims and no unsupervised contact with anyone under age 18. He was further ordered to undergo any sex-offender counseling deemed appropriate by the court’s probation department.
Rev. Desilets’ lawyer, Dennis J. Kelly, filed a motion Wednesday asking that his client not be required to attend a sex-offender treatment program after his scheduled release Monday from the state prison in Shirley. According to the motion, Rev. Desilets plans to return to his religious community in Canada, Les Clercs de St. Viateur, and is “too elderly and infirm” to participate in counseling.
A hearing on the motion was scheduled for today.
Mr. Kelly said his client has been had to use a wheelchair for many months and takes an array of medications for medical problems that include diabetes, anemia, cataracts in both eyes, episodes of vertigo and momentary loss of consciousness and pain in his right hip and knee resulting from a bout with polio as a child. Rev. Desilets has served his sentence in the assisted daily living section of the health services unit at the prison in Shirley, according to Mr. Kelly.
The lawyer said Rev. Desilets intends to live at the Les Clercs de St. Viateur infirmary residence in Joliette, Quebec, where he will receive all necessary medical care, nutrition and assistance with daily living requirements. Rev. Desilets was extradited from Canada in 2005 after being indicted in 2002.
“Father Desilets’ advanced age and infirm physical condition render him incapable of participating in a treatment program. Further, sex offender treatment would serve no useful purpose because he will not be in a position to have contact with children at the Les Clercs de St. Viateur infirmary,” Mr. Kelly wrote in his motion.
The lawyer is also asking that Rev. Desilets’ probation be changed from supervised to administrative and that he be allowed to report to his probation officer by mail or telephone. Mr. Kelly said he had spoken to probation officials in Worcester Superior Court and that they did not object to his requests.
Gaunt and unshaven, the retired priest appeared to fall asleep at times during his plea hearing last year, prompting Judge Hillman to ask more than once if he ws awake and understood what he was doing. Rev. Desilets responded affirmatively and Mr. Kelly assured the judge that his client was cognizant of what was going on, despite being “a little tired.”
‘Father Hands’ forgets
Victims remember better than priest
Thursday, May 12, 2005
By Dianne Williamson
TELEGRAM & GAZETTE COLUMNIST
They called him Father Hands back then, the young boys of Bellingham who yesterday filled two rows in Room 204 of Worcester Superior Court.
They are adults now, some with families, all with memories of a predatory priest who stood before them yesterday a broken old man, sick and gaunt, telling a judge he remembered the faces of only half of the boys he sexually abused in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Sometimes I forget,” the Rev. Paul M. Desilets told Superior Court Judge Timothy Hillman, when asked if he was confused about any of the questions posed to him.
“You don’t remember the victims?” Judge Hillman asked.
“No,” the retired priest replied softly.
“You don’t remember any of them?”
The priest paused. “Some.”
Judge Hillman continued to probe, gently and painstakingly, in an effort to determine whether the 82-year-old priest was competent to plead guilty to 32 counts of sexual abuse involving 18 former altar boys.
“Is it that you don’t remember the individuals or you don’t remember the conduct?”
“I don’t remember the individuals.”
“Do you remember the conduct?”
“Do you remember some of them?” the judge asked. “How many?”
“It’s very difficult,” the priest replied.
It was very difficult, watching the wheels of justice spin circles around a defendant as old and as sick as Paul Desilets. When he shuffled into court, handcuffed and wearing a dark-blue prison jumper, he looked more like a survivor of Auschwitz than the perpetrator of crimes against children. His eyes were sunken and his chin was covered with thin white stubble. Mouth agape and head bowed, he could barely keep his eyes open on the witness stand and at one point Judge Hillman mouthed “Is he awake?” to the defendant’s lawyer, Dennis J. Kelly.
“Mr. Desilets, are you still with us?” Judge Hillman asked. As was his habit, the priest looked to his lawyer for prompting before saying yes.
He takes 10 medications a day, the names of which he can’t recall, the priest told the judge. He suffers from diabetes and the effects of childhood polio. On April 27, he was taken from the Worcester County Jail to an undisclosed area hospital, but was later returned to his cell. He was arraigned last month in a wheelchair via video feed from the jail.
The young boys from Bellingham are grown men now, but for them, time has stopped. They don’t see the priest as a frail old man who needed help from a court officer to negotiate the witness stand. Instead, they see the powerful priest who sexually abused them for years, before Mass and after funerals, in a room off the altar at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Bellingham. They see his smile. They hear his warning that they’d burn in hell if they told.
Unlike the Rev. Desilets, they remember everything.
“I just look past his infirmities and remember him the way he was – a big, mean, bullying man,” said James Corriveau, 37, one of two brothers who said they were abused by the priest for seven years, beginning at age 9. “We’ve been scarred forever by what he did. I don’t feel any pity for him.”
His brother, Brian Corriveau, said the boys never told on the priest but would talk among themselves and inquire: “Did you get attacked by Father Hands today?” It was only four years ago, after his uncle returned from a trip to Canada and said he had seen the priest, that Brian revealed the boys’ secrets. More victims came forward. In 2002, the Rev. Desilets was indicted by a Worcester grand jury and later arrested in Canada, where he was living in a retirement home in Quebec.
Yesterday, Judge Hillman sentenced the priest to 1 to 1-1/2 years in state prison. His lawyer, Mr. Kelly, told the judge that his client wanted to apologize for his behavior.
“I’m sorry for what happened,” the priest said softly.
“You might want to say that to the people in back of you, not to me,” Judge Hillman said.
So the Rev. Paul Desilets dutifully turned to the men in the first two rows, to the boys he remembered and the boys whose faces he can’t recall.
“I’m sorry for what happened,” he said again.
One of the men had tears in his eyes. The rest stared back at their now-feeble tormenter before filing silently out of the courtroom, engrossed in their private thoughts, no longer helpless against the priest they once called Father Hands.
“He haunted my dreams for years,” Brian Corriveau said. “As young boys, we never felt there was anything we could do. Now, something’s been done. I just can’t believe this day has actually come.”
Dianne Williamson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Story list
Asked to help, priest allegedly abused
By Kevin Cullen, Globe Staff, 06/05/02
Scott Coon was the fortunate one. He got away.
After the Rev. Paul M. Desilets, a priest at Assumption Parish in Bellingham, had allegedly molested him from the age of 8 until he was 17, Coon told the church’s pastor, the Rev. Richard O. Matte, what had happened. But instead of comforting him, internal church documents released yesterday show, Matte told him to take his clothes off. Coon ran out of the rectory.
“I couldn’t believe what he said,” Coon recalls. “I just bolted.”
Coon’s instinctive reaction may have saved him from a worse fate.
According to the documents, another boy had no such luck. That teenager had gone to Matte to confide in him after allegedly being assaulted at St. Joseph’s Church in Malden by another parish priest, the Rev. Richard A. Buntel. The boy told Matte that Buntel had exposed him to alcohol, cocaine, and violent pornography, a seduction that began when he was 14 and resulted in him being sexually abused. Matte’s response to the boy’s plea for help was to sexually assault him, according to a letter sent to archdiocesan attorneys in August 1994 by attorney Robert A. Sherman.
The Archdiocese of Boston later gave the alleged victim $52,000 to settle a lawsuit he brought against Buntel and Matte.
The documents made public yesterday suggest that besides targeting minors, Matte was also a hypocrite. It was Matte who blew the whistle on Desilets after altar boys began complaining to him when he took over as pastor at Assumption in 1985. In October 1985, Matte wrote to Desilets’ superiors in Canada, where Desilets’ order is located.
“After many hours of prayer and `agony’ I find myself forced, by circumstances, to write to you about a problem that I inherited upon assuming the pastorate of Assumption Parish,” Matte wrote.
While praising Desilets as a “truly wonderful” priest who was especially dedicated to the sick and elderly, Matte added, “I have been approached by several altar boys who have the same story to tell! It seems that Father Paul had the habit of `touching’ them in an indecent manner … I am sorry to have to bring this to your attention and I hope that you understand my agony in having to write this letter to you.”
The Rev. Roger Brousseau, Desilets’ superior in Quebec, wrote back to Matte, thanking him.
“We pray that all the good Father Paul has done in your parish of the Assumption will compensate for the few indelicate gestures he might have done,” Brousseau wrote. “May God help you in healing the young boys who might have been hurt.”
Matte’s alleged victims were often altar boys, from parishes stretching across the archdiocese, in Pepperell, Salem, Malden, Methuen, and Lowell.
Matte also allegedly abused boys at Xaverian High School in Westwood, where he was chaplain. A church document shows that one victim was his nephew.
Another document alleges that he fondled a 14-year-old girl who sought his counsel after her father died.
All the while, Matte kept up the appearance of a caring priest who was deeply committed to helping children. In January 1986, he wrote to Bishop Robert J. Banks, telling him that 11 of Desilets’ victims had confided in him.
“I deeply appreciate the pastoral care and concern that you are showing for the youngsters and the families involved,” Banks responded in February 1986.
The bishop then wrote Desilets’ superiors, to reassure them that “Father Matte is a very serious and responsible priest. His report … should be taken very seriously.”
Matte, who is retired and living in South Dennis, did not return a call seeking comment. Desilets is awaiting trial on charges that he molested 18 boys in Bellingham between 1978 and 1984. He is one of the few priests to face criminal charges; that is because his leaving Massachusetts in 1984 froze the statute of limitations.
Buntel, who had been removed as a parish priest and was working as business manager for St. Thomas of Villanova Church in Wilmington, was one of six priests who were abruptly removed from their posts in February after Cardinal Law announced a zero-tolerance policy for priests accused of sexual misconduct.
The documents indicate that archdiocese officials began investigating Matte in 1992, apparently after Bishop Alfred Hughes received an anonymous letter from a Lowell woman who complained about Matte’s behavior with boys at St. Louis Church.
The documents suggest that Matte exploited the youngsters’ sense of shame and guilt. After allegedly raping a 13-year-old from Pepperell, Matte told the boy if he told anyone “he would go straight to hell,” according to a lawsuit filed against Matte in Suffolk County in 1994.
In November 1993, the archdiocese’s review board recommended that Matte be removed from active ministry.
This story ran on page A16 of the Boston Globe on 6
The Boys of Assumption Parish
Laura Lynch, reporter
Penny Cadrain, editor
Bruce Edwards, technical producer
Peter Armstrong, Quebec interviews
CBC Radio, June 28, 2002
The Roman Catholic Church in the United States has been forced to address an issue that for years was covered up: sexual abuse and the priesthood. The Church faced a furor over reports it shuffled problem priests from one parish to another.
The issue was dealt with at the highest levels. American bishops met in the Vatican, and then announced a new policy in Dallas – that priests who abuse would no longer be allowed contact with parishioners.
CBC’s Laura Lynch investigates the case of one Quebec priest who served in Massachusetts where he now faces 32 counts of indecent assault and battery against altar boys.
A word of warning: some of the language used in this report is both graphic and disturbing.
Brian Corriveau stands in the clutter of his room. He pulls a piece of his past off the printer. It’s a photograph of him and more than a dozen other altar boys dressed like angels in their white robes.
“I’m actually standing on the seat of a pew ’cause the first row of pews, they’re standing right in front of them,” says Corriveau. “I’m standing right on top of a seat, that’s why I’d be a couple of inches taller than my brother.” Corriveau appears in the photo as a beaming chubby cheeked boy, hands clasped in a prayerful pose. Beside him is a smiling priest, also bedecked in white. They were smiles that Corriveau claims were masking a dark secret.
Corriveau is now a stocky 36-year-old man with a thatch of brown hair streaked by only a few strands of grey. “You know, strict Roman Catholic family, my grandparents always went to church every week if not multiple times and we also went to church every single week and days of obligation, funerals weddings, you name it,” says Corriveau. “It was a major part of my grandparents life and my parents life. They were all very religious.”
It’s no surprise that when young Brian wanted to please his parents, he became an altar boy at Assumption Parish.
“I could see in my parents’ faces that they were very proud of me and they’d be smiling and they came up for communion, so I definitely enjoyed it,” he says.
But a new priest arrived in 1974. Corriveau says within weeks Father Paul Desilets, who came from Quebec and promised to teach young Brian to speak French, became the priest who began destroying his nine-year-old world. “He’d always make sure your zipper was up and then it progressed to the point where he’d always pull you to him, where he would pull you in and he’d reach around you and grab you right by your groin area so he could get you in and pull you close enough to fix the hassock and stuff,” says Corriveau.
Corriveau has terrifying memories of Desilets grabbing him by the crotch telling him it was time to measure his weight.
“When he got you off the ground by a foot or two he would tell you how heavy you are while pinning you with his arms, like his elbows, and then fondling you for a few minutes and then he’d finally put you back down again,” he says.
Corriveau talks of repeated incidents of fondling and severe spankings. And then, he says, something else happened when he was helping at a wedding. “He just kind of pinned me in, and then he started playing with me again and I hadn’t really had anything like this before, but he kept fondling me ’til I became aroused,” says Corriveau. “I thought he was going to squeeze me until I popped and my eyes bulged open and I was trying to get loose and I couldn’t get loose. “Sometimes when it was happening I was praying to God that I could be somewhere else or that he would stop. He was like six-foot-two, six-foot-three and a very big man and when you’re three-something or four-nothing and you just look up to him and he’s the hand of God, you just don’t think about, you know, whatever he has to say that’s the way it is.”
Corriveau claims the abuse lasted a decade and didn’t end for good until Father Desilets left Bellingham to return to Quebec in 1984. Corriveau and his brother James, who also says he was targetted by Desilets, kept their secret for years. Then this year, with so many reports of abusive priests screaming from the headlines of Boston newspapers, Brian Corriveau contacted a lawyer.
Jeffrey Newman, by now flooded with cases involving other priests, drove to Bellingham, talked to the Corriveaus, and filed a lawsuit. In the coming days, more and more men came forward. “I’ve talked to them, I’ve done detailed assessments of each and every claim,” says Newman. “I’ve gotten verifications sometimes from other individuals who saw it happen. “The occurrences happened consistently over a period of time. This wasn’t one or two occurrences with these boys, it happened over a period of years where they were afraid to tell their parents. In some cases they did tell their parents and the parents didn’t come forward.”
All of Newman’s clients are suing Desilets and the Archdiocese of Boston. In their formal complaint, the Corriveaus claim the Archdiocese knew or should have known Desilets posed a danger and failed to protect them. They also allege Desilets was sent away for psychological counseling on several occasions between 1980 and 1984. The cases have yet to be proven in court, but preliminary settlement talks are underway.
In most of these kinds of cases in Massachusetts, civil lawsuits are the only legal option open to victims. The state’s law normally bars criminal charges from going ahead if the allegations are more than six years old. But this case is different. That’s because the statute of limitations only applies to people who live in Massachusetts. Because Desilets left the parish, the state and the country for good in 1984, he can still be prosecuted.
That’s where Bellingham sergeant Richard Perry comes in. The burly officer has watched and listened as a steady parade of men, most his age, have cried like children before him. “To listen to grown men as upset as they were or are and then to hear about their problems that they’ve had throughout their entire life because of this is very difficult,” says Perry. “This case is a priority, probably the biggest priority I have right now, and I want to see it right to the very end.”
In many ways though, the criminal case is only beginning. There are now a total of 32 charges against Desilets. Half are for indecent assault and battery against child under the age of 14. The rest are for offences against older teenagers.
Massachusetts prosecutors are asking Canada to extradite Desilets to face trial. Desilets’ Boston lawyer has refused to comment. But Jean Savard will. He’s the Canadian lawyer who represents the Order of St. Viateur in Montreal, the Order that includes Desilets. “Father Desilets is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” he says. “He’s going to be turning 80. His health is fragile and I think we should let justice follow its course.”
Savard says the priests’ superiors reacted properly at the time to what he calls vague allegations. “They thought it best in the interests of everyone to have him exercise a ministry where he would not have access to children,” says Savard. Desilets himself hasn’t spoken publicly in months. Savard refuses to say whether the retired priest is still living in Riguad, west of Montreal.
The Boston Archdiocese hasn’t made any public comments about the case. But the Archdiocese’s own personnel records on Father Desilets help piece together some of the sad history of the case.
The file contains an exchange of correspondence between Boston church officials and the superiors of Desilets’ Montreal order. It begins in 1985, one year after Desilets left Bellingham, with a startling letter from the man who succeeded Desilets, Reverend Richard Matte.
The following are excerpts from the letters.
In the early 1990s, the Boston Archdiocese informed the Order that claims of abuse had surfaced again. The Order responded with concern.
In 1993, a former altar boy named Scott Coon met with a nun in Bellingham. A memo in the personnel file from that meeting shows Coon told her Desilets said the he would burn in hell if he told anyone about the molestation.
The Desilets case certainly isn’t the first instance of a priest who crossed the border in the course of his work only to leave a trail of allegations behind him.
Earlier this year, two American priests were suspended from parishes in British Columbia after old allegations from their service in Ohio resurfaced. In Tucson, Arizona, church officials recently made multi-million-dollar settlements to victims of a Canadian priest who moved there from Ontario.
Back in Bellingham, Canadian songbird Anne Murray is a popular choice for Catholics who like their music good and clean. Her CD is a big seller here at A Special Place, a store just down the road from Assumption Parish. The store is overflowing with religiously themed records, cards, even yo-yos and other toys. The store does a brisk business, which is no surprise since owner Gert Frankel says there are 24 Catholic churches within a 12-kilometre radius. The Desilets case came as a shock, but she believes the men who have accused the priest are in it only for the money.
“If it happened that long ago and nothing has happened why bother now?” asks Frankel. “Why make the Catholic Church suffer like this? It doesn’t make sense.” But a customer listening nearby disagrees. “I think it’s a good thing because it’s going to save other youngsters from falling in to the same misery.”
Brian Corriveau says he’s heard it all, the insults and the good wishes, from the people he’s known all his life. He says none of it is easy, and it shows. As he relives his days at Assumption Parish, he starts to shake, then cry. He admits he’d rather not remember at all.
“It’s pretty good as long as I don’t really think about it, and right now, I’m thinking a little too much about it,” he says. “As long as I just talk about it and just kind of remove myself from it and if there were a couple of other people here like my brother, I wouldn’t think about it as much.”
But on this night, his brother James has decided he cannot speak about the past. Corriveau says they’ve both been unable to have lasting happy relationships. He says they find it hard to trust anyone.
Now the two live together with their sister in their parents’ old house, just down the street from the parish they refuse to set foot in anymore.
Ex-Cornwall priest indicted
Wednesday, 17 April 2002 , Ottawa Sun
By Kathleen Harris
AN AGING priest who once taught at a Cornwall Catholic school has been indicted on child sex abuse charges in Massachusetts.
In the first case that points to an international link between Catholic church scandals, Father Paul Desilets, 78, was indicted by a grand jury Friday on 27 counts of indecent assault and battery against 18 victims.
Complainants were former altar boys at the Assumption Parish in Bellingham, about 65 km southwest of Boston.
Lawyer Jeffrey Newman, who is representing 20 victims in civil cases, has hired a private investigator to track Desilets’ movements over the years as he moved from Cornwall to Massachusetts, then to Quebec.
The independent probe aims to uncover whether Desilets was transferred due to allegations of child molestation.
“We want to speak with police authorities, school authorities, church authorities and parishioners to make general inquiry to see if anybody has had problem experiences or complaints,” said Newman from Boston.
Desilets, who returned to Canada in 1984 and now lives in Rigaud, Que. about 100 km east of Ottawa, is listed in the Catholic Directory of Canada as teaching at Cornwall’s Classical College in the late 1960s.
Newman believes this case could have “very significant implications” if it establishes the Boston Archdiocese knew of Desilets’ behaviour and did not alert Canadian authorities — or if there were any complaints lodged in Cornwall before Desilets moved to Massachusetts.
“It would be kind of a shock if we were to learn he had problems before he was sent to Massachusetts — to learn his order was aware of his pedophilic tendencies and didn’t warn people,” Newman said.
Desilets is the first priest charged in the Boston-area sex abuse church scandal, central in the evolving crisis that prompted the Pope to summon U.S. cardinals to Rome this week.
Bellingham Police Det. Richard Perry hopes to extend the investigation to determine if there are more victims in Canada.
“I would really like to know about that. I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with Canadian authorities yet because of my own case,” he said. “I’d be interested in finding out if there were any complaints lodged against him.”
The U.S. district attorney’s office has initiated extradition proceedings against Desilets.
Ottawa West-Nepean MPP Garry Guzzo, who has long pressed for a public inquiry into the OPP handling of sex abuse complaints in Cornwall, travelled to Massachusetts in February to examine potential links.
Learning of the formal charges against Desilets, Guzzo confirmed the accused is “one of the problems” he was looking into. Also of interest are three others who once worked in Cornwall — two priests and one social/community worker — with connections to Maine, Massachusetts and Ohio.
Project Truth, a four-year OPP probe in Cornwall, resulted in 115 charges, but they were laid only after a citizens’ group collected evidence. Two separate police investigations had turned up empty.
Perry Dunlop, a former Cornwall constable who helped expose historical sex abuse allegations, doesn’t doubt priests were moved around to escape complaints.
“This is worldwide,” he said. “If we don’t recognize that, we’ll never get to the problem. And we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg.”
Cornwall’s Classical College opened in 1949, run by the Clerics of St. Viateur who ran another college in Rigaud, Que.
The Catholic college opened as three houses in East Cornwall, offering high school classes and an off-campus college of the University of Ottawa. A new site opened in 1955. In operation for 19 years, the college educated future teachers, lawyers, doctors and priests before it closed in 1968. Officially, it closed due to financial difficulties, but some believe the school shut because of allegations of sexual abuse against students.
Cornwall resident Dick Nadeau, who atteded the Classical College in the 1950s, said the school had a reputation for sex abuse and is named by alleged victims in civil suits.
Priest indicted for alleged Bellingham abuses
Saturday, April 13, 2002
by Tom Mashberg
A Canadian priest who left the state 18 years ago has become the first former Archdiocese of Boston cleric to be indicted for abuse as a result of the molestation crisis roiling the church since January.
The Rev. Paul M. Desilets, 78, of Rigaud, Quebec, was indicted yesterday by a Worcester County grand jury on 27 counts of indecent assault and battery against 18 victims – all onetime altar boys at Assumption Parish in Bellingham.
Though Desilets’ alleged crimes took place between 1978 and 1984, the indictments were possible because the statute of limitations froze after he moved back to Canada, where he has lived continuously since 1984 as a priest for the Order of St. Viator, according to law enforcement officials.
“This is an enormously important first, and it makes the priest scandal an international one,” said attorney Jeffrey A. Newman, who represents more than 30 people alleging sexual abuse by Desilets.
“This man can be extradited under our treaty obligations with Canada, making it clear molesters in the priesthood who have left Massachusetts cannot escape the consequences of their actions.”
Desilets is assigned to the Valley Field Diocese in Rigaud. He could not be reached for comment, but in an interview with the Herald in January he denied any abuse, but then asked, “Isn’t there a statute of limitations on these things?”
Sgt. Detective Richard A. Perry of the Bellingham police department conducted most of the interviews that led to the indictment.
`We’re very happy about this indictment,” said Brian E. Corriveau of Bellingham, who along with his brother, Jim, was allegedly abused by Desilets as an altar boy in the 1970s. “We’ll still have to see if they can get him from his hiding spot, and can gt him convicted.
“We’re both willing to testify, and so are 19 other people,” Brian said. “If any other little boys are being abused, they will know they can report it and be believed.”/5/2002.
Retired Catholic priest says two sexual abuse allegations were exaggerated
07 February 2002
BOSTON (AP) — A retired Catholic priest accused by two brothers of sexually abusing them when they were altar boys in the 1980s says the allegations are exaggerated.
The Rev. Paul Desilets, 78, reached Wednesday at a nursing home in Rigaud, Canada, told The Associated Press that he remembers Brian and James Corriveau from when he was a priest at Assumption Parish in Bellingham from 1974 to 1984.
In a lawsuit filed Monday, the brothers, now in their 30s, accuse the priest of touching them sexually without permission when they were children.
“I think it’s exaggerated,” Desilets said. “It’s very difficult if we’re trying to be nice people. Priests are always criticized no matter what we do, we’re going to be criticized. It’s a wonderful way to discredit the church.”
Asked if his behavior constituted sexual abuse, Desilets said: “Probably it could be interpreted that way.” Later, he said, “I don’t consider that I did (sexually abuse them).”
The lawsuit names as defendants Desilets and the Archdiocese of Boston. The Corriveaus’ lawyer, Jeffrey Newman, said he has information that the archdiocese knew of the alleged sexual abuse in 1983 and moved Desilets out of the country.
A spokeswoman for the archdiocese did not return a call for comment.
Newman said he planned to file another lawsuit against Desilets on Thursday on behalf of three other former altar boys. The attorney has also represented people who claimed they were abused by defrocked priest John Geoghan, who faces 80 lawsuits.
The new allegations come as the archdiocese implements tougher policies for reporting allegations of sexual abuse. Cardinal Bernard Law last month reversed long-standing policy to say the church would report new and past allegations to law enforcement. The archdiocese has since given prosecutors the names of at least 38 priests who had been accused of sexually abusing children.
In Desilets’ case, althoug the alleged abuse occurred more than a decade ago, the six-year statute of limitations that begins when the victim turns 16 may not apply because the priest left the country.