Thursday, July 22, 2010

Former Manchester altar boy says he was abused

Former Manchester altar boy says he was abused
New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
9 hours, 39 minutes ago

MANCHESTER – A second civil lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by the late Rev. George St. Jean during his New Hampshire assignments was filed yesterday in Hillsborough County Superior Court North against the Diocese of Manchester and the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Province of the United States, based in Washington, D.C.

The state Attorney General's Office last year released documents that, for the first time, publicly named St. Jean as among 27 clerics against whom child sexual abuse complaints had been received.

The new lawsuit, by a Merrimack County resident using the name John Doe, alleges the diocese and the Washington, D.C.-based group that supervised St. Jean failed to protect Doe in 1967-68, when the then 11-year-old was an altar boy at St. Brendan's parish in Colebrook. St. Jean was also assigned to the Shrine of Our Lady of Grace in Colebrook.

In May, John Labbe, now 53, of Plymouth, filed suit alleging St. Jean sexually assaulted him about 100 times as a boy growing up in Colebrook in the 1960s, often while the two sat in the backseat of the family car while Labbe's father shuttled the priest to Masses.

The new lawsuit says Doe, who was born in May 1956 and raised in a devout Catholic family, brought the suit under a pseudonym because the suit "involves allegations of horrific child sexual abuse and he fears further psychological harm if his identity is publicly disclosed."

Doe's identity will be disclosed to the defendants in the lawsuit.

The suit alleges that "between 1967 and 1968, when John was approximately 11-12 years old, St. Jean sexually abused John on multiple occasions." The suit says Doe eventually quit as an altar boy to get away from St. Jean.

In conjunction with the filing of the lawsuit yesterday, members of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, demonstrated outside the diocesan headquarters at 153 Ash St. The group wants Bishop John McCormack to post on his website the names, whereabouts and priestly status of child-molesting clerics who are or have been in the area before he is required to submit his resignation to the Vatican when he turns 75 on Aug. 12.

Diocesan spokesman Kevin Donovan responded, "It's our policy that any accusation of child sexual about against diocesan personnel is immediately forwarded to the Attorney General's Office and, if there is a danger of an immediate threat to children or others, to local law enforcement as well." He added that if an offender "can be prosecuted for a crime under canon law, then that process is also followed. We abide by the laws that govern us."

St. Jean, who died Sept. 19, 1982, in Lowell, Mass., worked in Colebrook in 1958-59 and 1965-72, and in Hudson at the Oblates Retreat House 1962-64.

He was also assigned to the Oblate Center in Natick, Mass., 1973-74 and the Oblate Fathers Residence in Lowell, Mass., 1975-77.

The lawsuit alleges St. Jean sexually abused Doe on multiple occasions, usually in an office at the Shrine of Our Lady of Grace. It alleges while Doe was playing basketball or badminton with the other priests and brothers, "St. Jean frequently asked John to come inside under the auspices of discussing a common interest in coin and stamp collecting."

Instead, according to the lawsuit, it was a pretext for forced sexual activity.

Doe's lawsuit says it was not until Labbe filed his lawsuit in May that he "realized that the Diocese and the Oblate Order were negligent in their supervision and retention of St. Jean as a Roman Catholic priest."

The Diocese and the Oblates are accused of negligence for failing to protect Doe.

Diocesan spokesman Donovan said the diocese cannot comment on the suit because it is pending litigation. Doe is represented by Miami lawyer Jessica Arbour, who also represents Labbe.

No comments: