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Spotlight Report

  The Archdiocese of Boston sent the Rev. Ronald H. Paquin to Our Lady's Hall in Milton with other priests for treatment. (Globe Staff Photo / David L. Ryan)

Spotlight Report   FOLLOW-UP

Treatment center for priest called site of abuse

By Sacha Pfeiffer, Globe Staff, 3/20/2002

 In-depth
The Rev. Ronald H. Paquin is the only Boston Archdiocese priest who has pleaded guilty to charges of child sexual abuse.  
Coverage of the Paquin case
MILTON - When Rev. Ronald H. Paquin was removed from a Haverhill parish in 1990 for molesting children, the Archdiocese of Boston sent him here to Our Lady's Hall, where the church sequestered priests with similar problems - all of them ostensibly supervised and with potential victims out of reach.

But Paquin had an unusual visitor: One of the youths he molested repeatedly in Haverhill and other locations had sexual relations with Paquin in his room at the Milton treatment facility, at least twice spending the night, according to the alleged victim.

The allegations, detailed in a lawsuit filed yesterday in Middlesex Superior Court, raise troubling questions about church oversight at the brick mansion the archdiocese has used to house sexually abusive priests. Paquin and the archdiocese are named as defendants.

In interviews, and during a tour of the mansion grounds last Saturday, the alleged victim described dozens of visits to Our Lady's Hall during the early 1990s. None of the priests at the home, he said, raised questions about his visits, even though he and Paquin always went to Paquin's bedroom.

Donna M. Morrissey, the archdiocesan spokeswoman, said last night that she was uncertain what type of supervision is in place at Our Lady's Hall because the long-time director, the Rev. Robert P. Beale, was away and could not be reached.

Morrissey admitted, however, that the Rev. Edward T. Kelley, a ''counselor'' at the facility, was recently reclassified as a ''client'' because the church had credible allegations that Kelley had himself molested children. The archdiocese appears to have known about those allegations since 1993, when Kelley was placed on sick leave.

According to Paquin's latest accuser, now in his mid-20s, their sexual relationship began soon after he became an altar boy at age 11 or 12, and continued until 1993 or 1994, when he was about 17 or 18. Under Globe policy, victims of sexual abuse are not identified unless they wish to be.

In an interview on Monday, Paquin described his accuser as a ''close friend'' whom he had known for ''a long time.'' Asked if the relationship had ever become sexual, Paquin replied, ''Not really.'' Pressed on the issue, he denied that the two had been sexually involved. Asked whether the youth had visited him at Our Lady's Hall, Paquin said: ''No comment.''

The attorney for the plaintiff, Jeffrey A. Newman, who has represented many sexual abuse victims, called the case ''egregious,'' given that Paquin had been sent to Our Lady's Hall for treatment.

''He was there to be treated for sexual abuse and he's sexually abusing a child in the facility,'' Newman said. ''It's pretty bad, and it's very significant in terms of a laxity, a lack of control, and a kind of turning a blind eye to what is a readily apparent, known danger to children.''

The man's allegations include sexual acts that amount to rape, and would appear to fall within the 10-year statute of limitations that was in effect at the time. In addition to the sexual encounters at the Milton mansion, Paquin also took the youth on numerous trips to Vermont, Maine, and other states as well as Canada.

The accusations also contradict an account Paquin gave to the Globe in a January interview in his Malden apartment. He admitted then that he had molested boys in Methuen and Haverhill until 1989, but insisted the abuse stopped when he was placed on sick leave in 1990.

''I've gone 12 years and haven't abused anyone,'' Paquin, who is 59, said at the time. The Globe reported in January that the archdiocese has paid settlements to at least four of his victims. Several other alleged victims of Paquin have since retained lawyers.

Last Saturday, the young man guided two Globe reporters to the facility, recounting the many times he had visited Paquin there. The man said he was not aware at the time that Paquin was being treated because Paquin only told him he was living there until he received a new assignment.

Our Lady's Hall, a large, well-maintained, brick mansion on Highland Street in an affluent section of Milton, is nominally a retreat house for depressed and alcoholic priests. But church officials have also used it as ''transitional housing'' for priests who had molested children.

The man estimated he visited the facility several dozen times during the two to three years Paquin lived there, sometimes entering through the front door, sometimes through a less visible side or basement door. Once they were in Paquin's room, Paquin often masturbated him and performed oral sex on him there, the man said.

On one of the occasions he spent the night, the man said, Paquin offered to make him breakfast - but asked him to stay in the bedroom while he prepared food downstairs. The facility did not require visitors to check in or out or have any apparent supervision, the man said, and his presence there was never questioned by other priests.

The man said he was introduced to Paquin in 1988, when he became an altar boy at St. John's parish in Haverhill, where Paquin was assigned.

''He immediately wanted to start being my friend,'' the man said of Paquin, whom he refers to as ''Ron.'' He said Paquin often took him shopping, bought him gifts, and invited him to visit the church, where they would talk about religion. His father and stepmother were grateful that the priest had taken an interest in their son, he said.

A friendship blossomed, the man said, and ''I really became an active part of church and his life.'' He began to regard Paquin as his ''father figure,'' he said.

After about seven months, the man said, Paquin began to invite him on day trips to shopping outlets in Maine and, eventually, overnight trips to a camp in Kennebunkport. Before long, their conversations during the ride up Interstate 95 took a sexual turn, the man said, as Paquin steered the topics to psychology, then Freud, then sex.

''He just started making this a part of our normal conversation,'' the man said. ''It was embarrassing at first, but he'd say, `I know this is weird and embarrassing, but it's normal to talk about this, and it's good to feel comfortable with your sexuality,' and I'd listen to what he'd say.''

During one visit to the camp, the man said, Paquin began talking about massage therapy, and then began massaging his back and legs. ''Next thing you know he's fondling me,'' the man said, ''then physically bringing me to ejaculation. He was very gentle about it, and if he noticed me getting tense he'd back off. He'd say, `Are you OK? This is completely normal.'''

Eventually, the man said, Paquin was regularly performing oral sex on him, often in a car in a Haverhill cemetery.

Yet even as the relationship grew increasingly sexual, the man said, he considered Paquin a friend. Of the sexual activity, he said, ''I was made to believe it was normal and natural, so it seemed normal and natural.''

It wasn't until he turned 17 and began dating that he became ''increasingly, increasingly uncomfortable'' with Paquin's sexual interest in him, said the man. Finally, after meeting the woman who would eventually become his wife, ''that's when I told him, `I can't do this anymore,''' he said.

Since about 1994, the man said, he and Paquin had been ''working on developing a really close relationship'' without sex, the man said. But he said he believes Paquin still struggles with sexual urges, and he said Paquin occasionally still succumbs to ''grabs,'' like a hug that leads to a grope. He said some of the alleged instances occurred while the archdiocese had Paquin under treatment at Baldpate, a private psychiatric facility in Georgetown.

Then, in January, after stories in the Globe and other papers disclosed Paquin's long history of sexual abuse, ''I was just in shock,'' said the man, who said he was unaware Paquin had molested other children. After confronting Paquin, who he said could not recall the number of children he had abused, ''that was the turning point for me,'' the man said, and he retained a lawyer.

Paquin, who was ordained in 1973, started his career at St. Monica's in Methuen, where he was in charge of altar boys, Boy Scouts, and Catholic Youth Organization, church directories show. In 1981, he was transferred to Haverhill, where he remained until he was sent to St. Luke Institute, a Maryland treatment center for sexually abusive priests, in 1990.

From 1990 to 1998, church directories list Paquin as ''unassigned,'' ''awaiting assignment,'' or on ''sick leave.'' He is listed at Youville Hospital in Cambridge in 1999 and 2000. In the most recent two annual directories, his name has been removed.

Sacha Pfeiffer can be reached at pfeiffer@globe.com "> pfeiffer@globe.com .

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 3/20/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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