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Jean Birkenstein Washington

Boston Herald

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Robin Washington
Articles - Catholic Church abuse scandal

Confession: Ex-Haverhill priest admits he molested kids for years

Boston Herald, January 26, 2002

By Robin Washington and Tom Mashberg

A long-time Haverhill priest who was suspended by the Archdiocese of Boston over accusations of pedophilia admitted yesterday that he molested numerous young boys while wearing a cleric's collar and said he, too, had been abused by a priest during his teen years.

"I'm sorry for what I did," said Ronald H. Paquin, 59, of Malden, who is out of work. "I wish I could personally apologize to all these kids."

Paquin said he was himself raped when he was 13 years old by three teenage boys - an event that warped him sexually and emotionally.

Informed sources say Paquin is among the 50 or so former priests expected to be identified by the church under new rules put forward by the archdiocese resulting from the John J. Geoghan scandal. However, the statue of limitations for criminal charges has apparently expired.

A relative of an alleged victim of Paquin told the Herald that the former priest engaged in a 20-year spree of child abuse beginning with his assignment in St. Monica's Church in Methuen in 1973 and later St. Rita's Parish in Haverhill.

"This man did molest children from (the '70s) to approximately 1990," the relative said. "It's been hidden all this time. There are boys in Haverhill in their 20s today who still won't talk about it."

Paquin denies that the abuse was so extensive, insisting that no incidents happened at St. Rita's, where he was assigned in 1981.

But he later admitted that he did not cease molesting boys until 1990, after a stint at a therapeuic home for priests with sexual disorders.

Paquin painted a portrait of a traumatized youth in which he was raped, and soon after lost his father. "After my father's death, I was befriended by a priest," he said. "I finally unloaded this terrible thing to him."

He said the priest, whom he refused to identify, took him under his wing, only to abuse that trust by raping him repeatedly.

"My abuse lasted for many, many years," he said. "I finally went into the seminary at 24. It stopped when I got into my 20s. It had been a nine-year period of abuse."

In 1977, Paquin said, the priest who was both his mentor and tormentor died. He then started acting out by abusing other boys, he said.

"He died in 1977, four years after I was ordained," the short, bespectacled Paquin said. "When he died my whole world collapsed.

"He was my father figure. This priest was a tremendous man. On the one side he was educated and brilliant. But on the dark side he was what we would call a pedophile today."

Paquin said it was 1990 when his first victim came forward to the church. He was sent to the St. Luke Center in Suitland, Md., which has treated hundreds of priests involved in child molestation, including Geoghan.

"In my fourth month, I was allowed to come to Boston to put together a support program. They knew I wasn't a danger. The would never have let me if they thought I was.

"It's been 12 years since I've been out of St. Luke's and no incident has ever happened.

"A pedophile is one who is a predator. I'm not a predator. I've come a long way in these 12 years. I've tried to rebuild my life. It's been very, very difficult.

"Cardinal Law has been extremely kind to me. He's been a wonderful bishop. He's been generous to me and many, many others."

Paquin said he was aggrieved the archdiocese released details about his record because the was told it would remain sealed forever.

"We were denied our constitutional rights of meeting our accusers," he said. "A lot of (priests) are going to get hurt by this." Many priests who felt their abuses were sealed will now find that they, too, are to be named publicly, he said.

He even suggested that a class-action suit by the defrocked priests might be in order, given the fact they signed settlement agreements assuring them of anonymity.

Contacted last night about Paquin, the archdiocese issued the following statement: "Following the procedures of the policy regarding accusations of sexual misconduct with minors, the Archdiocese of Boston removed Father Ronald Paquin from ministry that involved minors. Currently, he does not hold any position in the archdiocese and is suspended."

No chronology was given.

Paquin was ordained a priest in 1973, and sent to St. Monica's, where he was in charge of youth groups and altar boys. He moved from Methuen to Haverhill in 1981, and remained there until his removal in 1990.

Since leaving St. Luke's, Paquin has been on indefinite sick leave.

Coincidentally, Paquin's surname appears in a letter in Geoghan's personnel file noting Geoghan's transfer to the Office for Senior Priests - part of an effort by the church to keep Geoghan from work involving children.

In the letter, dated January 1993, church officials suggest they pay Geoghan's salary by following the "precedent of funding for . . . Fr. Paquin and seek funds from the Clergy Fund under Special Cases."

He says he kept word of his offenses from his mother because he wanted to spare her the humiliation.

Referring to his mother, he said: "What do you tell an 86-year-old woman who is so proud of her son, the priest?"

For the latest on the church scandal, click here for the Boston Herald's Trail of Abuse coverage.

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