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Boston Cardinal Reassigned 3rd Accused Priest, Documents Say

May 31, 2002 | The Los Angeles Times

As recently as 1998, Cardinal Bernard Law assigned a priest accused of pedophilia to work as a hospital chaplain, new documents from the sex scandal roiling the Roman Catholic Church show.

Ronald H. Paquin, 59, who was stripped of his rights as a priest in 2000, is the third cleric this year whose history as a child abuser was described in Boston archdiocese personnel records. Paquin, like Father Paul Shanley and former priest John J. Geoghan, was reassigned rather than removed from duties in the face of complaints.

All three received psychiatric treatment for sexual problems, and in each case, Law--the senior U.S. prelate--appears to have approved new jobs for the priests in which they might have contact with children. Paquin was indicted May 15 on three counts of child rape. He is being held on $500,000 bail in a Massachusetts jail.

Shanley, 71, was extradited from San Diego on May 2. He has pleaded not guilty to child rape and also is in jail, with bail set at $300,000. He has been named in a series of civil suits against Law and the archdiocese.

Geoghan, 63, was sentenced in January to nine to 10 years in prison for fondling a child. More than 200 people have accused Geoghan of sexual abuse; 86 alleged Geoghan victims have filed a civil lawsuit against Law and the archdiocese, and many others are expected to join the suit.

Asked to comment on the Paquin matter, archdiocese spokeswoman Donna M. Morrissey issued a written statement Thursday that said, "Due to ongoing litigation, there are many documents in the public domain.... Under the advice of legal counsel we will not be commenting on the specifics of those cases." Attorney Jeffrey A. Newman, who represents several alleged Paquin victims, said Thursday that he would not comment on the new documents because depositions are in progress in suits against the archdiocese.

The rash of complaints involving Paquin are detailed in documents released to the Boston Globe. The newspaper in January helped ignite the church sex abuse scandal by publishing previously confidential church records that demonstrated a pattern of protecting Geoghan at the expense of parishioners.

Excerpts from the Paquin documents, published Thursday in the Boston Globe, show that Paquin was assigned to ministerial duties in parishes north of Boston despite 13 complaints from 1990 to 1996 that alleged sexual problems over the previous 20 years. According to the Globe, the archdiocese made substantial payments to several of Paquin's accusers.

The records contain accusations Paquin gave young boys gifts and served liquor before molesting them. They also refer to reports Paquin sometimes took boys to his rectory bedroom.

A church review board and a top lieutenant to Law recommended that Paquin be removed from the priesthood. Later, the records show, the advisor and review board had a change of heart and allowed Paquin to stay on.

The records also show that in 1981, while driving four teenage boys to a New Hampshire ski chalet, Paquin lost control of his car, and one of the youths died in the accident. Paquin was treated in 1990 and 1991 at a residential facility for pedophile priests in Maryland.

In assigning Paquin in 1998 to work as a chaplain at the Youville Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in Cambridge, Law wrote, "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."

Paquin was stripped of his rights as a priest two years later after Law wrote the Vatican.

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