March 22, 2006

Bishop asked to start defrocking proceedings

Telegram & Gazette


WORCESTER— Paul A. Guries has formally asked Bishop Robert J. McManus to begin proceedings to remove the Rev. Gerard L. Branconnier from Catholic priesthood.

The Diocese of Worcester settled a lawsuit with Mr. Guries in 1993 in which he alleged sexual abuse by Rev. Branconnier, and he received an out-of-court settlement of about $35,000. The alleged incidents happened when Mr. Guries was 16 and a member of North American Martyrs Parish, Auburn.

Although Rev. Branconnier was removed from ministry and placed on leave in 1993 by then-Bishop Timothy J. Harrington, Mr. Guries told Bishop McManus that Rev. Branconnier continues to function as a Catholic priest.

He said he had a recent “awkward” situation when he attended a wake at an Auburn funeral home. He found Rev. Branconnier there dressed in clerical garb and signing the guest book as a priest. Mr. Guries listed other reasons he believes Rev. Branconnier may still be functioning as a priest.

He sent a copy of his letter outlining his allegations to Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio of the United States, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re at the Vatican Congregation for Bishops and Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos at the Vatican Congregation for Clergy.

Mr. Guries mailed and then hand-delivered a letter to Bishop McManus on Friday in which he stated his reasons Rev. Branconnier should be laicized — returned to the lay state; essentially the same as defrocking.

“If he is defying the mandate of his administrative leave from ministry, those actions are in violation and will warrant more serious penalties,” said Raymond L. Delisle, diocese spokesman.

Mr. Delisle said several priests were referred to the Vatican for laicization but he does not know if Rev. Branconnier was among them.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith treats each one individually, and it is impossible to say how long each one will take,” Mr. Delisle said.

Mr. Delisle said Bishop McManus left Monday for Rome but he expects the bishop to answer Mr. Guries on his return. Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley and several other archbishops will be elevated to cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI.

“Father Branconnier does not have faculties,” Mr. Delisle said. “He may not celebrate Mass or celebrate any public ministry. He may not present himself as a cleric (dressed as a priest). This has not changed since he was removed from his parish in 1993 by Bishop Harrington.” The term “faculties” means the permission priests have from their local bishop to function as priests and administer sacraments.

Posted by kshaw at March 22, 2006 10:15 AM