The Boys of Assumption Parish
Laura Lynch, reporter
Penny Cadrain, editor
Bruce Edwards, technical producer
CBC Radio, June 28, 2002
The Roman Catholic Church in the
The issue was dealt with at the highest levels. American bishops met in the
CBC's Laura Lynch investigates the case of one
A word of warning: some of the language used in this report is both graphic and disturbing.
Brian Corriveau stands in the clutter of his room. He pulls a piece of his past off the printer. It's a photograph of him and more than a dozen other altar boys dressed like angels in their white robes.
"I'm actually standing on the seat of a pew 'cause the first row of pews, they're standing right in front of them," says Corriveau. "I'm standing right on top of a seat, that's why I'd be a couple of inches taller than my brother." Corriveau appears in the photo as a beaming chubby cheeked boy, hands clasped in a prayerful pose. Beside him is a smiling priest, also bedecked in white. They were smiles that Corriveau claims were masking a dark secret.
Corriveau is now a stocky 36-year-old man with a thatch of brown hair streaked by only a few strands of grey. "You know, strict Roman Catholic family, my grandparents always went to church every week if not multiple times and we also went to church every single week and days of obligation, funerals weddings, you name it," says Corriveau. "It was a major part of my grandparents life and my parents life. They were all very religious."
It's no surprise that when young Brian wanted to please his parents, he became an altar boy at Assumption Parish.
"I could see in my parents' faces that they were very proud of me and they'd be smiling and they came up for communion, so I definitely enjoyed it," he says.
But a new priest arrived in 1974. Corriveau says within weeks Father Paul Desilets, who came from
Corriveau has terrifying memories of Desilets grabbing him by the crotch telling him it was time to measure his weight.
"When he got you off the ground by a foot or two he would tell you how heavy you are while pinning you with his arms, like his elbows, and then fondling you for a few minutes and then he'd finally put you back down again," he says.
Corriveau talks of repeated incidents of fondling and severe spankings. And then, he says, something else happened when he was helping at a wedding. "He just kind of pinned me in, and then he started playing with me again and I hadn't really had anything like this before, but he kept fondling me 'til I became aroused," says Corriveau. "I thought he was going to squeeze me until I popped and my eyes bulged open and I was trying to get loose and I couldn't get loose. "Sometimes when it was happening I was praying to God that I could be somewhere else or that he would stop. He was like six-foot-two, six-foot-three and a very big man and when you're three-something or four-nothing and you just look up to him and he's the hand of God, you just don't think about, you know, whatever he has to say that's the way it is."
Corriveau claims the abuse lasted a decade and didn't end for good until Father Desilets left
Jeffrey Newman, by now flooded with cases involving other priests, drove to
All of Newman's clients are suing Desilets and the Archdiocese of Boston. In their formal complaint, the Corriveaus claim the Archdiocese knew or should have known Desilets posed a danger and failed to protect them. They also allege Desilets was sent away for psychological counseling on several occasions between 1980 and 1984. The cases have yet to be proven in court, but preliminary settlement talks are underway.
In most of these kinds of cases in
In many ways though, the criminal case is only beginning. There are now a total of 32 charges against Desilets. Half are for indecent assault and battery against child under the age of 14. The rest are for offences against older teenagers.
Savard says the priests' superiors reacted properly at the time to what he calls vague allegations. "They thought it best in the interests of everyone to have him exercise a ministry where he would not have access to children," says Savard. Desilets himself hasn't spoken publicly in months. Savard refuses to say whether the retired priest is still living in Riguad, west of
The Boston Archdiocese hasn't made any public comments about the case. But the Archdiocese's own personnel records on Father Desilets help piece together some of the sad history of the case.
The file contains an exchange of correspondence between
The following are excerpts from the letters.
October 15, 1985
To: Reverend Pierre Goulet, Les Clercs de Saint-Viateur de Montreal
Dear Father Goulet,
...I have been approached by several altar boys who have the same story to tell. It seems that Father Paul has the habit of "touching" them in an indecent manner. I bring this to your attention so that you can be aware of the problem and take whatever steps you feel are required to help Father Paul and prevent this from happening to other young people...
Rev. Richard O. Matte
November 11, 1985
To: Reverend Richard Matte, Assumption Rectory
...It came as a surprise to us since we never heard of any complaint about Father Paul during the many years he served in your Parish. On the contrary we heard only words of satisfaction.
Nevertheless we thank you for informing us in such an important matter. Presently Father Paul is not involved with youngsters, but he deals only with adult people...
We pray that all the good Father Paul has done in your Parish of the Assumption will compensate for the few indelicate gestures he might have done...
Truly yours in Christ,
Reverend Roger Brousseau,
Les Clercs de Saint-Viateur de Montreal
In the early 1990s, the Boston Archdiocese informed the Order that claims of abuse had surfaced again. The Order responded with concern.
January 20, 1993
To: Most Reverend Alfred C. Hughes, Archdiocese of Boston
...You inform me that further allegations have arisen... Will further allegations lead to legal procedures?...
As for Father Desilets, he is still posted in our shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary and deals only with adults...
...If there are new allegations, we need to have more information so that Father Desilets can explain his point of view, and, if necessary, defend himself, and of course get the legal, pastoral and psychological assistance he would need...
In 1993, a former altar boy named Scott Coon met with a nun in
The Desilets case certainly isn't the first instance of a priest who crossed the border in the course of his work only to leave a trail of allegations behind him.
Earlier this year, two American priests were suspended from parishes in
"If it happened that long ago and nothing has happened why bother now?" asks Frankel. "Why make the Catholic Church suffer like this? It doesn't make sense." But a customer listening nearby disagrees. "I think it's a good thing because it's going to save other youngsters from falling in to the same misery."
Brian Corriveau says he's heard it all, the insults and the good wishes, from the people he's known all his life. He says none of it is easy, and it shows. As he relives his days at Assumption Parish, he starts to shake, then cry. He admits he'd rather not remember at all.
"It's pretty good as long as I don't really think about it, and right now, I'm thinking a little too much about it," he says. "As long as I just talk about it and just kind of remove myself from it and if there were a couple of other people here like my brother, I wouldn't think about it as much."
But on this night, his brother James has decided he cannot speak about the past. Corriveau says they've both been unable to have lasting happy relationships. He says they find it hard to trust anyone.
Now the two live together with their sister in their parents' old house, just down the street from the parish they refuse to set foot in anymore.
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