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Past Abuse Case Reportedly Prompts Priest To Leave Parish

Nov 1, 2002 | The Boston Globe

An embattled priest who was transferred in June to a New Hampshire church where parishioners were not told that he had been the subject of a sexual abuse complaint involving a teenager has said he plans to step down in the next few days.

According to several parishioners of St. Patrick's Church in Jaffrey, the Rev. Roland P. Cote, 57, told them yesterday and earlier in the week that he has decided to leave the church, perhaps as early as next week.

Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack transferred Cote to St. Patrick's without informing parishioners that he had signed a financial agreement the previous month with a man who said he had engaged in a five-year sexual relationship with Cote in the 1980s.

Cote has confirmed the relationship to church officials. But no charges were brought against him in part because prosecutors could not determine if the youth was a minor, under the age of 16, when the relationship began. Diocesan officials said the church's settlement agreement says the relationship began when the youth was 18.

When the details of Cote's past became known in late September, parishioners at St. Patrick's confronted him and McCormack about why they had not been told of the complaint. Some called for Cote to leave the parish and for McCormack to resign because of the handling of the transfer.

The Globe reported Wednesday that McCormack had testified at a closed-door deposition that he had directed Cote to tell parishioners on taking over at St. Patrick's that law enforcement had investigated the case and concluded that no abuse of a minor had occurred.

McCormack also testified that he had told Cote that he did not have to tell parishioners the details of his relationship with the teenager, who is now 36, unless he was specifically asked.

The Rev. Edward J. Arsenault, chancellor and McCormack's delegate on sexual abuse complaints, declined to comment last night on Cote's future or whether McCormack had asked him leave St. Patrick's. Cote did not return messages left at the church rectory.

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