Some Catholics in Hudson were already weary of the priest sex-abuse scandal when more details were revealed about a former local priest Tuesday.
Richard A. Buntel, a priest at Christ the King Chapel during the 1970s, was a drug and alcohol addict who molested a minor while a priest in Malden, according to documents of clerical conduct made public this week as part of a court case against the Rev. Paul R. Shanley.
Buntel, 66, is one of three priests accused of abuse who have served in Hudson.
In August, the Rev. Tom Curran, 56, was removed from his post as pastor of St. Michael Parish after he was accused of abuse that took place some 25 years ago. His removal stays in force until the archdiocese decides otherwise.
The third priest accused of abuse was the late Rev. Thomas Dempsey, a pastor at St. Michael from 1970 to 1972. Dempsey pleaded guilty to molestation charges in Wisconsin.
St. Michael includes St. Michael Church and Christ the King Chapel.
Manny Resendes, a member of St. Michael and a selectman, is too young to remember Buntel, but sees child abuse by priests as an international problem.
“As a former altar boy, I’m concerned about the church as an institution and its responsibility to pedophilia. I hope they do more than they have done to protect children,” he said. “This isn’t just a Hudson issue. It’s not a state issue. It’s not even a U.S. issue.”
To many parishioners, the sexual abuse scandal in Hudson is too difficult to discuss.
Some mornings, Resendes said he fears picking up the paper because there may be more allegations. “I think I’ve heard almost too much,” he said.
One longtime parishioner of St. Michael remembers Buntel as having a clean record at Christ the King Chapel. “I did not know of any trouble with Father Buntel when he was here, and my sons were altar boys,” said Rosemary Rimkus. “I just feel so bad about this whole mess.”
Buntel became pastor of Christ the King Church in 1971 and stayed through 1978. He was not accused of abuse while in Hudson.
In 1978, he was transferred to St. Joseph’s in Malden and archdiocesan memos refer to Buntel as being called “pothead” and, in reference to his cocaine use, “the blow king of Malden,” according to the Boston Herald.
After an allegation of misconduct in 1983, he transferred to St. Catherine’s in Westford. Then in 1994, he was placed on administrative leave.
In May 1999, Cardinal Bernard Law approved him to work as the business manager at St. Thomas’ Parish in Wilmington. However, the church was not informed of his background, the Boston Herald reported.
“Had kids coming in rectory up to room doors shut,” according to a memo in Buntel’s confidential file. “(Buntel) had oral sex (with a minor). He did sex with adults too married men,” according to the Herald.
In his file were numerous references to drug, alcohol and sexual abuse and attempts at treatment, the Herald reported.
The Rev. Steven Poitras, assistant vicar at St. Michael, has not talked about Curran, Buntel or the scandal in his sermons because it distracts parishioners from their peaceful contemplation of God, he said.
Curran is still the official pastor of St. Michael. Poitras invites anyone who wants to discuss the crisis in the church to speak with him or the church’s administrator, the Rev. Walter Carreiro, privately.
“I would hope by this point that parishioners know we have an open door policy, if they want to talk about it,” Poitras said.
“I have preached about what we need to preach about. I just find this whole thing to be disturbing to them.
“So on Sundays, the preference is to lead them more deeply into a relationship with Jesus Christ,” Poitras said. “Talking about the scandal does not do that. It upsets them.”