The New York Roman Catholic archdiocese has announced it is willing to pay off the victims of pedophile priests in exchange for their silence.
Any records of such abuse and what the church did about it would also remain private.
It’s an attempt by the church to again avoid accountability and responsibility for the abuse of children.
It should hit home in this community.
It should be an outrage here because of what Father Gary Mercure did in Queensbury and Glens Falls.
He served as priest at Our Lady of Annunciation in Queensbury from 1982 to 1991.
He was the campus minister at Adirondack Community College from 1982 to 1999.
He was the priest at St. Mary’s in Glens Falls from 1991 to 1995.
And he was convicted in a Pittsfield, Massachusetts, courtroom in 2011 of three counts of forcible rape on a child younger than 14.
The then-63-year-old was sentenced to up to 25 years in prison and the judge said he was “no more than a common thug.”
But it gets worse.
In 2013, 88 of the 563 pages of his secret church personnel file were unsealed as part of a lawsuit filed by one of his victims.
It has previously been reported that Mercure stole money from the church and used it to lavish young men and boys with cash and gifts while remaining active sexually. They also showed that the priest used his position to gain the trust of parents whose sons he raped and abused.
During the trial in Massachusetts, The Times-Union reported that the mother of one of the victims testified she found five pairs of her son’s bloodied underwear stuffed inside a wall in his bedroom. The victim testified he hid the underwear after Mercure raped him.
A monster right here in our community.
And we have no way of knowing how many victims there were.
When accusations were first made against Mercure in the 1990s, his personnel file shows the diocese sent him away for therapy, but he was eventually returned to the ministry with no restrictions regarding children.
Mercure was never held accountable for any sins in New York.
Or for the alleged abuse of children in this community. That’s because New York has a statute of limitations. Adults victimized as children have until their 23rd birthday to bring a case. From what we know now about the trauma inflicted on these victims, it is an absurd standard.
The New York State Legislature had another chance to make it right this past spring when it considered the Child Victims Act. The law would have eliminated the statute of limitations and provided a one-year civil review of past crimes.
The New York Daily News, which took up the law as a cause this past year, reported last June that the Catholic Conference, led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, had spent $2.1 million since 2007 to top lobbying firms across the state — including Behan Communications in Glens Falls — to block the proposed law.
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The law was not passed.
So let’s connect the dots.
When I first wrote about the Child Victims Act last June, I received emails from both Heath Bromley of Queensbury and Pierre Lafond of Oswego. They both wanted to talk. They had both been victims.
Bromley said his abuse started at age 6. The word he used was “terrorized.”
Think about that for a second.
Lafond said his started at age 8.
Bromley, who is now 41, was one of the two victims who testified against Mercure in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
After the archdiocese announced its offer on Oct. 6 to compensate New York victims if they agreed to keep the abuse and the church’s response secret, I contacted both men.
I wanted to know what they thought of the offer. I wanted to know what they thought about the Child Victims Act not passing in the Legislature.
“Everything they do is about silence,” said Lafond, who is now 63. He said he would not seek a settlement.
“Just another tact to defer real law coming into place. They are protecting pedophiles. This is an admission of guilt, but the whole thing is backwards. We are going to the perpetrators and asking for a solution,” said Bromley. “It shows you the putrid nature of our politicians.”
Bromley also said he would not seek a settlement.
Shortly after the legislative session ended in June, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he supported the removal of the statute of limitations, but that the Legislature must proceed carefully.
The bill will be introduced again.
Perhaps the archdiocese is worried more about what it will cost than making amends.
“I do know of other victims of Gary Mercure,” Bromley said. “It’s crazy how close to home this was.”
“They have never apologized to any of Gary Mercure’s victims,” Bromley said.
“The Pope says you have to take care of victims, yet they lobby against the victims,” Lafond said of the archdiocese.
The Times-Union reported that Gary Mercure is still receiving his pension from the church.
Ken Tingley is the editor of The Post-Star and may be reached via email at email@example.com. His blog, “The Front Page,” discusses issues about newspapers and journalism. You can also follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kentingley.
In an earlier version of this column, it was incorrectly reported that Gary Mercure was once the principal of St. Mary’s –St. Alphonsus Regional Catholic School. According to the Diocese of Albany, he was never the principal of the school, but he was assigned to the church as a priest.