Monsignor: N.H. Priest Files Destroyed To
Conceal Abuse Evidence
By KATHRYN MARCHOCKI
Union Leader Staff - January 8, 2003
A Manchester historian said he discovered some clergy personnel
files empty while researching his history on the Catholic Diocese
of Manchester, leading him to conclude they had been destroyed.
It was my very strong impression that some files had been
destroyed and the files were destroyed because of incriminating
evidence, Monsignor Wilfrid H. Paradis said in an interview
Paradis said he now believes the files he discovered stripped of
their contents or containing just one to three sheets of paper involved
priests accused of child sexual abuse or sexual misconduct with
Appalled by the pervasive clergy sexual-abuse scandal and the hurt
inflicted on children, he blames it in part on the fraternal culture
of the clergy and its instinct to protect itself.
We are not going to be able to save the brethren by destroying
archives and putting clergy first before the spiritual and physical
and emotional good of the children, he said.
Paradis, 80, said he had complete access to diocesan
archives and other church records while researching his book, Upon
This Granite: Catholicism in New Hampshire 1647-1997, published
But he did not review the dioceses secret archives. He didnt
ask to look at them and doubted I would have been given permission
Paradis recalled that while doing his most intensive research,
from 1980 to 1996, he found at least a half-dozen clergy personnel
files that contained almost no record of their years of service.
They lacked details of their parish assignments and correspondence
typically found in priests files.
The file is absent. The file is gone, Paradis recounted.
I remember clearly at that time feeling that this had been
destroyed and the reason for the destruction would have been something
in that persons life that they did not want to come to light
after his death, to protect the person I suppose and also to protect
the greater good of the church, the retired priest and Manchester
He would not identify the priests.
In some cases, the files may have been destroyed upon the death
of the priest or before the installation of a new bishop when diocesan
officials would clean house, Paradis said.
Some people would take it upon themselves to just go through
some of this material and feel that it is better destroyed than
to keep it, he said.
In addition, Paradis said he found a few cases of priests accused
of sexual abuse of children and a few of priests accused of sexual
misconduct with adults, usually women.
In some instances, he was able to reconstruct these priests
histories by working through parish and other church records, he
I did run into some cases (of sexual misconduct), but not
an alarming number . . . not enough to send out any signals,
But nowhere did he glean the extensiveness of the problem exposed
in the past year.
I knew there were things like this, but I had no idea the
extent of it, the number of priests involved and the number of cases
of people who have been violated, he said.
Some of the recently accused priests are people I never would
have thought would have been involved in anything of that nature,
A state prosecutor who has reviewed at least 11,000 pages of diocesan
and investigative files related to clergy sexual abuse dating back
to the 1960s yesterday acknowledged some documents are missing from
It will be clear when we release the papers what is there
and what isnt there, Senior Assistant Attorney General
N. William Delker said.
The documents are expected to be released to the public by Feb.
10 as part of an agreement struck between the attorney general and
the diocese last month.
Investigators uncovered information in witness and victim interviews,
police reports and other sources that enabled them to determine
documents were missing from church files, he said.
I dont want to characterize what they did, but there
was stuff removed from the files, and its reflected in their
own documents, he said.
A lawyer representing more than 60 alleged victims of clergy sexual
abuse suing the diocese said in a recent court motion that retired
Bishop Odore Gendron destroyed documents detailing child sexual
abuse by the Revs. Philip Petit and Gordon MacRae.
The record destruction, attorney Mark Abramson argued, amounts
to fraudulent concealment.
Diocesan spokesman Patrick McGee said church personnel files may
include privileged medical records.
If the priest or (his) medical provider request that the
document provided be returned or destroyed, the diocese has complied
with such requests in the past, McGee said.
But Delker said investigators found more than privileged medical
materials absent from church files.
There was stuff beyond that that was missing, Delker
McGee said no records regarding allegations of child sexual abuse
by a priest or church employee, including medical records, have
been destroyed since November 2000.
Regarding Paradis assertions, McGee said he is not aware
of any materials being destroyed, but could not rule that out.
Noting Paradis hadnt examined the secret archives, McGee
said, There is information that may have been moved from one
file to another, but that is purely speculation.
In addition, Paradis concurred with the attorney generals
conclusion that the diocese reassigned abusive priests who later
abused other children.
I am well aware that this was true, he said. This
actually happened. This isnt just a fabrication.
While the church often treated clergy sexual abuse as a personal
or spiritual problem, Paradis credits the media with
exposing the crisis as a crime that, given the number of young victims
left in its wake, carries widespread social and civil ramifications.
Im fundamentally relieved that the press has picked
up on this issue and is forcing us to look at ourselves in the mirror,
We as church are supposed to be guardians of public morality.
So when we as priests are offenders of public morality, then we
should at least know it and do something about it, he added.
A decorated World War II veteran, diocesan historian and official
expert at the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, Paradis said
the clergy sexual abuse crisis will probably have repercussions
in the church for generations to come.
This is one of the most crucial scandals, and its one
of the very critical issues of our time in the Catholic church.
Its definitely part of our history and how we have contaminated
to a certain degree the very people that we are entrusted to care
for, he said.