The story of Rev. Ronald H. Paquin: Allowed to be a priest for years despite repeated complaints and settlements regarding his sexual abuse of minor children

News Summary: "Records show Law reassigned Paquin after settlements" by Stephen Kurkjian, Boston Globe May 30, 2002

April 18, 2006
By Rick Ross

Cardinal Bernard F. Law reinstated the Rev. Ronald H. Paquin to priestly duties in 1998, despite many complaints of molestation against the priest and settlements paid to his victims, church documents revealed

According to diocese records, between 1990 and 1996 there were 13 complaints alleging sexual misbehavior by Paquin.

Paquin allegedly gave boys gifts and liquor before molesting them. They church decided to pay the priest’s victims. A church review board at that point said that Paquin be purged from the priesthood, but then later changed its mind and gave him another chance.

Before Law reassigned Paquin as a chaplain the archdiocese had paid settlements to six of his 13 reported victims totaling more than $500,000 the Globe reported.

After more warnings in 1990 Paquin was finally removed as associate pastor at St. John the Baptist Church in Haverhill. He subsequently received psychological treatment in Maryland and the lived in a home for problem priests.

Documents prove that Law's 1998 decision allowing Paquin to become a chaplain at Cambridge hospital was actually influenced by another priest that also was removed after allegedly molesting children.

''I know that there have been some very difficult moments for you. I trust that your own continued vigilance and support of competent professionals will allow you to begin a new phase of ministry in the Archdiocese,'' Law wrote to Paquin in a July 11, 1998.

Paquin was told not to work with minor children at the hospital, and the facility was informed about his background.

Law's letter came just six months after the notorious priest Rev. John J. Geoghan was defrocked. Geoghan, who was eventually murdered in prison, was criminally convicted as a child molester.

Paquin's reinstatement is one example of the bad decisions made by Law and his deputies, which often allowed pedophile priests with a known history of offenses to continue in ministry.

Documents have proven that Paquin had a long history of complaints. In 1995 Rev. Brian M. Flatley wrote to Cardinal Law that a concerned father of one of the priests victims was ''in contact with other victims of Father Paquin (although he seems unaware of just how many there are.)''

The Globe was able to read hundreds of discovered documents due to litigation. Jeffrey A. Newman, a Boston lawyer that represented some of Paquin's victims, made sure they were placed in the court record and made accessible to the public.

In 2000 Paquin was permanently removed after the archdiocese received more complaints from additional victims and one threatened to go to the press.

Paquin was indicted on three counts of rape of a child on May 15, 2002 and was placed in jail pending $500,000 bail.

The Globe reported that the priest’s superiors suspected or knew about his sexual abuse of children for years before they did anything.

Rev. Allen E. Roche, pastor at St. Monica's Church in Methuen where Paquin served as associate pastor, received complaints but never notified the archdiocese.

According to repeated reports Paquin took minor boys to his rectory bedroom. A memorandum prepared by Sister Rita V. McCarthy, a Chancery official who investigated such allegations, reported that Roche told her two years before his death in 1997 ''that he had not liked the idea'' of Paquin taking boys to his room. One child complained that he was molested.

Roche said he was nearing retirement, according to the memo, and decided to do nothing about his concerns. The same boy also told Rev. James M. Carol about the incident, but again nothing was done.

Another memo cites a 1981 auto accident, in which one of four teenage boys Paquin took to a New Hampshire ski chalet, died after Paquin lost control of the car on a New Hampshire highway.

But Roche wrote, ‘‘the timing was not right so nothing was done at that time.''

Roche claimed in 2002 that he had passed on complaints to the archdiocese.

In 1988 Rev. Frederick E. Sweeney was suspicious about Paquin's involvement with boys. After complaining to archdiocese officials about the priest two young men, one of who had allegedly been abused by Paquin, went to Sweeney with information about the priest. The same young men also met with the Rev. John B. McCormack, then the head of the archdiocese's office of clergy abuse.

McCormack removed Paquin from St. John's Church in 1990, sending him for treatment to Maryland.

McCormack, who later became a bishop in Manchester, NH, nevertheless allowed Paquin to return and become a hospital chaplain

During September 1992, an adult male Paquin met at the hospital filed a complaint against him with the archdiocese for alleged inappropriate behavior.

Months later McCormack received yet another complaint from a youth allegedly abused by Paquin some years earlier. The abuse began when he was less than 13 and continued for years. In addition to this McCormack was told that Paquin molested another boy while studying to become a hospital chaplain.

Paquin told McCormack that ''he had done things wrong in the past,'' but the priest claimed he had not abused children since his treatment in 1990 and 1991.

However, the person Paquin was later charged with raping, stated that this took place from 1989 to 1992.

One memo within archdiocese files in 1996 stated, ''it is irresponsible for the Archdiocese to allow him to be working where there are young people [at his day job at CVS Pharmacy], given his history.''

Paquin refused to leave the priesthood, but agreed to leave CVS, if the archdiocese would consider letting him work as a priest.

At this time Paquin was allegedly bringing a teenage boy into Our Lady's Hall for sexual encounters, this is the same person that the priest was later criminally indicted for raping.

But in 1997 Paquin proposed to Bishop Murphy that he be allowed to work with the Rev. C. Melvin Surette, ''in finding employment within the Church,'' ''I would be very supportive of this," the bishop responded.

The Archdiocese's Review Board recommended in 1994 that Paquin seek ''laicization.'' But in May 1997, it voted to let him work again as a priest as long as it ''does not put him in contact with minors.''

By September, Surette told his superiors that he made Paquin a chaplain at an archdiocese-sponsored elderly nursing home in Lynn. A few months later, Surette found a better job for him, as chaplain at the Youville Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, which paid $1,716 a month, $300 above the salary of church pastors.

In 1994, before Surette was assigned to the archdiocese's office regarding clergy abuse, the archdiocese settled a lawsuit that accused him of abusing youths at Alpha Omega, a church-run treatment center for troubled teenage boys in Littleton. There other former occupants of the home filed suit alleging that Surette abused them during their time at Alpha Omega.

Cardinal Law gave his official approval of the Paquin reassignment within a July 1998 letter to the priest. ''I am confident of your ability to minister competently and compassionately to the community at Youville,'' Law wrote.

But two years later the cardinal withdrew his support.

Between May 1999 and September 2000, the archdiocese received five new complaints from men that alleged Paquin abused them during the 1970s and 1980s, when they were teenagers.

In December 2000, Law wrote the Vatican asking that Paquin be defrocked.

''Father Paquin has engaged in sexual molestation of numerous boys since and before he was ordained and 18 cases have already been reported to the archdiocese. 'It is my judgment that he is the cause, potential and actual, of grave scandal," Law wrote Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of state for the Vatican.

Copyright © 2006 Rick Ross.

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