D.A. Conte closes priest sex
Statute of limitations issues end investigations
Kathleen A. Shaw
TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
May 20, 2003
District Attorney John J. Conte has closed criminal investigations
into alleged sexual misconduct by six suspended Worcester
diocese priests, because of statute of limitations issues.
Meanwhile, Mr. Conte has asked Canadian authorities to take
over his investigation of a seventh priest, the Rev. John
J. Bagley, who allegedly took a Worcester youth to Canada
during the 1970s and sexually abused him.
The closed investigations involve the Rev. Gerald P. Walsh,
who last served at St. Roch parish, Oxford; the Rev. Raymond
P. Messier of St. Francis parish, Athol, and St. Peter parish,
Petersham; the Rev. Chester Devlin of St. Bernadette parish,
Northboro; the Rev. Joseph A. Coonan of St. John parish, Worcester;
the Rev. Peter J. Inzerillo of St. Leo parish, Leominster;
and the Rev. Lee F. Bartlett of Sacred Heart of Jesus parish,
Mr. Conte has forwarded the files from his investigation of
Rev. Bagley to the Toronto Police Service. The alleged incident
is beyond the Massachusetts statute of limitations, which
means Mr. Conte cannot prosecute the priest here, he said.
He discovered during his investigation that Canada does not
have a statute of limitations for this type of crime, so he
turned over the file to Canadian authorities, he said.
The media relations office for the Toronto Police Service
had no information on the files that Mr. Conte said were handed
over to them in late April. The sexual crimes unit in Toronto
did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.
Mr. Conte said his investigation into allegations against
Rev. Bagley turned up more than one victim. One alleged victim
has asked the district attorney's office to pursue the case,
Mr. Conte said.
Rev. Bagley, a former Vatican official and diocesan vocations
director who last served as pastor at St. Mary's parish, North
Grafton, was removed and placed on administrative leave in
February 2002 by Bishop Daniel P. Reilly. The removal followed
an allegation made to the diocese by a man, now in his 40s,
who claimed he was raped by Rev. Bagley in 1967 when he was
serving at Christ the King parish.
That alleged victim has not wanted to be publicly identified,
and the incident is beyond the statute of limitations.
From 1972 to 1974, Rev. Bagley was in Rome where he was assigned
to the Papal Audience Office for American Bishops and served
as assistant superior of the Graduate House of Students at
the North American College. He was assigned to Blessed Sacrament
parish in 1971 and Our Lady of Mount Carmel after transferring
from Christ the King. He also served with the Newman Apostolate
at Worcester State College in 1971.
Mr. Conte said he investigated the six other priests removed
last year by the bishop and found all the allegations refer
to incidents beyond the statute of limitations, which cannot
be prosecuted. He said although these investigations have
been closed, they can be reopened if new information emerges.
Mr. Conte added that he has investigations going regarding
allegations made against two other priests who are no longer
serving in the diocese. He said his investigators are still
trying to determine whether the statute of limitations into
these cases still apply.
A court in Montreal has continued until September the case
of the Rev. Paul M. Desilets who is accused of sexually abusing
18 altar boys when he was serving at Assumption parish in
Bellingham. Mr. Conte has been seeking his extradition back
to the United States to face the 32 indictments returned a
year ago by a Worcester County grand jury.
Rev. Desilets, member of the Clerics of St. Viator religious
order, returned to Canada in 1984 where he has remained. The
alleged incidents happened in Bellingham between 1978 and
1984. Rev. Desilets has been fighting the extradition.