NH--Victims prod AG to go after predator priest
For immediate release: Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016
Victims urge prosecutors to pursue predator priest
He admitted abuse and pledged to stay away from kids
But he’s worked for years at two more NH churches
SNAP to AG: “Investigate whether he violated plea deal”
Group also prods Hillsborough County Attorney to act
A victims’ support group is urging New Hampshire prosecutors to investigate whether an admitted predator priest broke a legal agreement that he stay away from children.
Fr. Mark Fleming, who now lives in Manchester, “admitted molesting three boys” and “signed an agreement that forbade him from ‘participating in any future religious, educational, or organized social programs which involve children,’” according to legal documents and news accounts.
“The Hillsborough County Attorney’s office agreed not to seek indictments if Fleming stuck to the deal,” the Concord Monitor reported yesterday.
But until recently, Fr. Fleming worked at South Parish Unitarian in Charlestown, NH (603 826 3418) and before that at the First Universalist Church of West Chesterfield(603-256-6193, [email protected], [email protected]).
“If prosecutors sign plea deals with predators, they must enforce those deals,” said David Clohessy of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “Unitarian officials admit he worked at these churches. He may, in fact, have worked in other settings around kids. So we beg New Hampshire’s Attorney General and Hillsborough County’s prosecutor to investigate this troubling situation.”
Documents from the Manchester diocese and the attorney general’s office “reveal that Fleming admitted molesting three boys at Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Hudson in 1983” and Fr. Fleming’s work at those churches “may have broken his (non-contact) agreement,” the Concord Monitor reported on Monday.
“A murderer shouldn’t work in a gun shop and an admitted serial child molesting cleric shouldn’t work in a church, especially when he’s sworn to law enforcement that he won’t,” said David Ouellette of Rochester, SNAP’s New Hampshire Director. “Common sense tells us Fr. Fleming broke his word. But only an independent investigation by experienced law enforcement professionals can tell us he has assaulted more boys or girls since his 1984 plea deal.”
“Shame on Bishop Peter Libasci and his predecessor, Bishop John McCormack, for refusing to do more to warn the public about Fr. Fleming,” Clohessy said. “And shame on Unitarian officials for giving him access to kids.”
“This is an outrageous betrayal that should never have happened. We suspect that Unitarians didn’t properly vet this guy or they didn’t tell their flock the full truth about him,” said Barbara Dorris of SNAP. “Having let this predator be near kids, the least these church officials can and should do is use their resources to alert unsuspecting families, neighbors and congregants to keep their kids away from him.”
In 2002, under intense public and parishioner pressure, the Manchester Diocese released a partial list of accused predator priests. It did not include Fr. Fleming because they claim they thought he had died.
“We find that hard to believe,” Ouellette said.
Fr. Fleming’s victims were represented by New Hampshire attorney Mark Abramson. In one case, Fr. Fleming held a boy under water in an apparent display of his power, Adamson said.
“We hope every single person who saw, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Fleming or cover ups by Catholic officials will find the strength to call police, expose wrongdoers and protect kids,” Ouellette stressed.
Officials at First Unitarian include Shannon McNamara, Gary Brackett, Betsey Brackett, Sylvia Fairbanks, Marilou Parkhurst, Jim Lichoulas and Doug Parkhurst.
While Fr. Fleming has apparently not worked in a Catholic church for years, SNAP believes that he has not been defrocked, a move that can only be made by the Vatican. So he likely still gets a paycheck from the Manchester diocese, the group maintains, and should be called “a priest,” not “an ex-priest.”
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)