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Priest Sought Help, Instead Was Assigned to Youth Work

Feb 16, 2003 | AP Six years after being ordained in 1970, the Rev. Paul Aube realized he had a serious problem. The Roman Catholic priest couldn't control his sexual urges, he says, and he had molested several teenage boys.
Aube blew the whistle on himself. He says he told his superiors that he'd had sexual contact with the teens, asked his bishop for psychological counseling, and asked that he never again be assigned to work with children.

Instead, he says, he was assigned to a job that put him in regular contact with minors, and he stayed in public ministry first in youth work and later in hospitals another 18 years.

Last year, Aube turned himself in again. He went to the New Hampshire attorney general's office and, in exchange for limited immunity from prosecution, became a key witness in a state investigation of the church's mishandling of clerical sex abuse cases.

"I'm willing to die for the church," Aube told The Associated Press. "But I had a moral responsibility, as the church teaches, to cooperate. I had a moral responsibility to participate with the civil authorities and that's what I did."

The state's investigation ended with an unprecedented settlement in which the Diocese of Manchester, which covers the state, admitted its handling of abusive priests had harmed children. The details will be in 9,000 pages of investigative files the state plans to release March 3.

Patrick McGee, spokesman for the diocese, would not comment on Aube's claims. Former Bishop Odore Gendron, to whom Aube says he turned in 1976, did not return calls. Gendron retired in 1990.

Aube, 62, says he did get a psychological evaluation through the diocese in 1976. He says he learned only last summer that it deemed him fit to work with children.

Aube never was charged criminally although several lawsuits against the diocese name him as an abuser. The diocese listed him last year as one of 15 priests who had been credibly accused of abuse.

In a national scandal that has seen more than 325 priests resign or be removed from their posts since early last year, Aube is one of the few to tell his story publicly.

Aube acknowledged in an AP interview that he molested several boys in their late teens between 1971 and 1980 while assigned to churches in Claremont, Berlin, Nashua and Rochester.

He said none of the abuse "was forcible, violent or was the kind of sexual contact that you would consider to be grave or serious. No one was under the age of 16."

He also said he has never harmed another minor since starting psychological treatment -- at his own expense -- in 1981. Placed on administrative leave by the diocese in 1994, he now lives in a camper and gets by on $750 a month he receives from the church.

Aube, 62, grew up in New Hampshire and entered the seminary when he was 20.

One of his first assignments after ordination was to work with people questioning their sexual identities. He said he found it difficult to show affection and concern for them without crossing the line.

"People who were close to me were saying 'Paul, be careful. You could get yourself in trouble,"' he said. "After six years, something finally sunk in and I became concerned and I wanted to see if there was anything there."

He says he asked Gendron in 1976 not to be assigned to work with children; he wanted to return to school and study scripture.

"I was refused that and the bishop insisted that I return to youth work to develop youth programs," he said. He said his duties included teaching religion classes for teenagers and children.

"Even when I expressed concern, I was asked to return to an atmosphere and a situation that put me at risk, against my good judgment," he said. "I did it out of obedience to my bishop."

Aube was accused of abusing a teenager in 1981. After counseling, he was appointed chaplain at Concord Hospital and in 1983 became director of pastoral services at Elliot Hospital in Manchester.

While at Elliot, Aube said he was approached by other abusive priests who had sought help and been turned away by the diocese. "They had just been rebuffed and (were) hurting," he said.

Aube lost his job in 1993 when Elliot merged with another hospital. He was placed on leave a year later.

Aube acknowledges that the harm he did to his victims can't be undone, but he hopes his cooperation with authorities will help them. He said he still loves the church, but feels its leaders were more concerned about image than doing the right thing.

"I know what my lord stands for, I know what my church stands for, and I know what I want to stand for, and I betrayed that," he said. "But I did whatever I could to rectify it. And I'm proud of that."

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