Court papers indicate a former bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester destroyed church records detailing the alleged sexual abuse of children by two priests.
Reports Tuesday said Bishop Odore Gendron in the 1980s purged the records of the Revs. Philip Petit and Gordon MacRae.
Gendron, who headed the diocese from 1975 to 1990, destroyed the records at the request of Petit, who had been accused of sexual misconduct, and at the request of the facility where MacRae had undergone treatment for sexual abuse, the Union Leader of Manchester reports.
The destruction of the documents was disclosed in a motion filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court by attorney Mark Abramson, who represents some 60 alleged victims.
Abramson said the destruction amounted to fraudulent concealment.
“In fact, the church went to devious lengths to hide its enormous, complicit responsibility” in the sexual abuse of children, Abramson wrote in his motion.
The lawyer said Gendron “personally ordered the destruction of harmful documents while keeping those he thought might protect the diocese from civil liability.”
According to the motion, Gendron wrote in a 1986 letter to Petit that he would “certainly destroy all documents, notes, etc., referring to your treatment” for sexual misconduct.
Petit, accused of molesting a teenager from 1979 to 1981, reportedly left the ministry in 1986.
Gendron also agreed to destroy an evaluation of MacRae from the Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico, a clergy sexual abuse treatment center.
“I will, as you request, destroy the various psychological reports you included,” Gendron wrote in a 1989 letter.
MacRae was convicted of molesting boys in 1994 and is serving 33 to 67 years in prison.
Diocesan spokesman Patrick McGee said there was no intent to cover up abuse allegations.
“If the intent were to destroy any record of that, then that letter itself would not be in there,” he said.
He said Gendron destroyed the documents because they were private medical records made available to the diocese on the condition they be destroyed.
Will Delker, spokesman for the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, said, “It doesn’t come as a surprise to find there are missing or destroyed documents.”