Former Fall River pedophile priest 'removed' by pope

The Providence Journal/May 9, 2009

Fall River - A former Roman Catholic priest who was banished from the Diocese of Fall River and stripped of his clerical responsibilities in 1963 in the wake of accusations of "improper behavior" with young boys - only to resurface a year later as a priest in Indiana and later in Vermont - has been officially removed from the priesthood by Pope Benedict XVI.

Church officials in Burlington, Vt., Fort Wayne, Ind., and Springfield, Mass., confirmed on Thursday that Edward O. Paquette Jr., who left numerous complaints of sexual abuse of young boys in his wake before settling in Westfield, Mass., was removed from the priesthood Jan. 31, making it "impossible" for him to validly serve again as a priest.

Paquette, now 81, was last in the news in December when a jury in Vermont awarded a former altar boy $3.6 million in a suit he filed against the Diocese of Burlington for failing to protect him from abuse inflicted by the priest during the 1970s.

Two years ago, also after a jury trial, a Vermont court ordered the Burlington diocese to pay $8.7 million to a Maryland man who alleged he had been abused by same priest.

Gloria Gibson, communications director for the Diocese of Burlington, said the diocese was currently appealing one of the court awards, and is still attempting to deal with about 20 more complaints against Paquette. She said Burlington Bishop Salvatore Matano, a former co-chancellor for the Diocese of Providence, would have no comment about the former priest.

According to John Kearns, spokesman for the Fall River diocese, Paquette was ordained in 1957. After receiving complaints about his behavior, then-Bishop James L. Connolly ordered the priest to undergo a series of evaluations and barred him from presenting himself as a priest.

Despite that order, and despite a strong recommendation by Bishop Connolly not to admit him, the Diocese of Fort Wayne accepted Paquette’s request that he be incardinated in the diocese there and to work again as a Catholic priest, Kearns said.

Under the rules of the Catholic Church, each bishop has free rein to run his own diocese, irrespective of what other bishops might say or recommend. The only way for a priest to be permanently reduced to lay status is by a decree from the Vatican.

According to, a group that advocates for victims of abuse by clergy, the Fort Wayne diocese informed Paquette in 1971, after receiving numerous complaints, that he was "no longer needed." He was immediately accepted into the Burlington diocese in 1972, serving for six years before being barred from ministry there.

There are reports that after his removal, Paquette would still be seen occasionally wearing a Roman collar. Living in Westfield, Mass., he reportedly has lived a quiet life over the last three decades, insisting that he is innocent of all the allegations against him.

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