Law Firm Report Shows 35 Catholic Priests Accused Of Child Sex Abuse In One Single New York State Diocese, With 8 Still Working

This map shows places in the Diocese of Ogdensburg where eight priests named in the report have been assigned.

North Country Now

“A report from a Minnesota law firm specializing in representing sexually abused children has released a report identifying eight priests who were assigned to St. Lawrence County churches that have been publicly accused of molesting children.

The report comes from the Jeff Anderson and Associates firm out of St. Paul, Minn.

The priests include fathers John J. Fallon, Theodore M. Gillette, John Hunt, Liam O’Doherty, Robert M. Shurtleff, Clark S. White, David E. Wisniewski and Paul F. Worczak.

The firm says the vast majority of the accusations have not gone to court, and the statute of limitations has expired on many of them.

It is believed that the Diocese of Ogdensburg does not make available to the public the full history, knowledge and context of the sexually abusive clerics,” the report says. “The Diocese of Ogdensburg can be viewed as a microcosm of the national problem of priests sexually assaulting minors because the diocese fails to fully disclose its knowledge of sexually abusive priests. Upon instituting a zero tolerance policy in 2002, half of the eight publically known perpetrators were removed (Fathers Gillette, Shurtleff, White & Wisniewski).”

In 2002, Diocesan Administrator Monsignor Richard Lawler said that since 1950, 56 people, 37 of whom were minors at the time, have made sexual-abuse allegations against 35 clergymen. The diocese determined that the allegations against 23 of the priests were credible, according to the report.

The identities of all 35 priests have not been disclosed to the public.

“In the interest of public safety the identities and the histories should be disclosed,” the report says.

The Ogdensburg diocese has created the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, which is a third-party-administered fund that compensates some victims of childhood sex abuse by priests. There is a May 31 deadline for those who qualify.

“Currently, the IRCP is available only for survivors who previously reported their abuse. It is possible the program will be made available in the future to survivors of abuse who have not yet reported their abuse,” the report says. “While the IRCP does provide some measure of justice and accountability, it is also complex and requires a survivor to waive his/her future rights if a settlement is received.”

Diocese officials offered an apology to victims in a 2004 letter where they acknowledged the problem of priests molesting children, and announced the creations of a victim reconciliation fund.

“I sincerely apologize to anyone who has suffered sexual abuse from our clergy, and to their families who have carried this burden with them. Nothing I say can change the past, but I want you to know that the Diocese of Ogdensburg remains most willing to assist victims in any way,” Lawler wrote.

All of the information on individual priests below comes from the Anderson and Associates report, made public on Wednesday. They say they compiled their information, histories and approximations from public records, media reports, the official Catholic directory and bishopaccountability.org.

Fr. John J. Fallon

Fallon was arrested on charges of receiving child pornography in the mail. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years’ probation with six months of psychiatric therapy. He was at Holy Family in Watertown from 1956 to 1960; Holy Name of Jesus in Faust in 1961; St. Mary in Ticonderoga from 1962 to 1968; St. Matthew in Black Brook from 1969 to 1975; Holy Angels from 1976 to 1985; his whereabouts in 1986 are unknown; he was “absent on sick leave” in 1987; in 1988 he was chaplain at St. Joseph’s Home in Ogdensburg; “absent on sick leave” in Albuquerque, N.M from 1989 to 1999; retired in 2000 and was in Albuquerque and Syracuse; he was at the St. Pius X Home in Syracuse in 2003 and Tommy Coyne Residence at Dillon Hall in Syracuse in 2004. He died Feb. 5, 2005.

Fr. John J. Fallon, left, and Fr. Theodore M. Gillette. Photos of others were not in the report.

Fr. Theodore M. Gillette

Gillette was removed from his parish assignment in 2002 as a result of child sexual abuse allegations. He was at Holy Name in Ausable Forks from 1979 to 1981; at St. Bernard in Saranac Lake from 1982 to 1983; at Notre Dame in Ogdensburg from 1984 to 1987; at St. Augustine in Peru, N.Y. in 1988; at St. Hubert in Star Lake from 1989 to 1993; at St. Raphael’s in Heuvelton in 1994; at St. Paul in Blake River from 1995 to 1999, and he was there and at St. Rita in Deferiet from 2000 to 2002. His whereabouts from 2003 to 2013 are unknown. Gillette died on Aug. 31, 2014.

Fr. John Hunt

Hunt was ordained in 1969. In 2004, he resigned as pastor of two parishes and was placed on administrative leave in the wake of allegations of “inappropriate sexual behavior.” He was at St. Mary in Champlain from 1970 to 1971; at St. Alexander in Morrisonville from 1972 to 1974; at Wadhams Hall in Ogdensburg from 1975 to 1980, where he was director of development; at St. John the Baptist in Keeseville from 1981 to 1986; at St. Francis of Assisi in Potsdam from 1987 to 1990; at St. Patrick in Watertown from 1991 to 1995; at Notre Dame in Ogdensburg from 1996 to 1999; at St. Francis of Assisi Campus Parish (Newman Center) Church in Potsdam in 2000 and from 2001 to 2002, he was there and also at St. Thomas More Church in Canton; at St. Henry Church in DeKalb and Sacred Heart Church in Edwards in 2003; at St. Henry and Sacred Heart in DeKalb in 2004; at St. Henry in Gouverneur, as well as St. Anthony of Padua, St. Bartholomew and St. William Deans, all on Old Forge, from 2005 to 2006; his whereabouts from 2007 to today are unknown.

Fr. Liam O’Doherty

O’Doherty was ordained in 1965. In 1979, a Franklin County grand jury accused him of sexually abusing three children in the mid- to late-1970s. The misdemeanor charges were dismissed shortly thereafter. In the early 2000s, four women filed civil lawsuits alleging that O’Doherty sexually abused them as children. He was reportedly removed from ministry and no longer functions as a priest. As of 2003, he was reportedly residing at Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Miss, but his current whereabouts are unknown. O’Doherty was assigned to St. Lawrence in Canton from 1966 to 1967; St. Joseph in Malone in 1968; St. Patrick in Port Henry from 1969 to 1971; St. Mary in Clayton from 1972 to 1973; St. Ann in St. Regis Falls from 1974 to 1979; St. Andrew in Sackets Harbor from 1980 to 1993; St. Michael Church in Antwerp from 1994 to 1998; “absent on leave” from 1999 to 2001 and “absent on sick leave” in 2002. His whereabouts after that are unknown.

Fr. Robert M. Shurtleff

Shurtleff was ordained in 1970 and was removed from his parish assignment in 2002 as a result of an allegation of child sexual abuse. He was assigned to St. Mary’s Church in Potsdam from 1971 to 1974; St. Bernard Church in Saranac Lake in 1975; on special assignment with an address of Box 265, Potsdam from 1976 to 1980; listed in the report as “on special assignment, registrar Clarkson College, Box 265, Potsdam” from 1981 to 1989; back at St. Mary’s in Potsdam in 1990; at Holy Name of Jesus (Faust) Church in Tupper Lake in 1991, and in 1992 was there and also at Sunmount Developmental Center for Mentally Handicapped, Tupper Lake; he remained at Holy Name of Jesus in Tupper Lake from 1997 to 2000; at St. Mary of Clayton Church, Clayton, and St. John the Evangelist Church in LaFargeville from 2001 to 2002; his whereabouts from 2003 to 2018 are unknown.

Fr. Clark S. White

White was ordained in 1974 and was removed from his parish assignment in 2002 as a result of an allegation of child sexual abuse. He was at St. Alexander in Morrisonville from 1975 to 1976; at Holy Family in Watertown from 1977 to 1978; his whereabouts in 1979 are unknown; he resurfaced at St. Alphonsus in Tupper Lake from 1980 to 1983; at St. Lawrence in Louisville from 1984 to 1985; on duty outside the diocese with an address of St. Martin de Porres, Casilla 105, Mollendo, Peru from 1986 to 1991; on “special assignment” in 1992; at in two separate St. Patrick churches in Brasher Falls and Hogansburg from 1993 to 1995; at St. Patrick Church in Brasher Falls and St. Lawrence Church in North Lawrence from 1996 to 2002; his whereabouts from 2003 to 2018 are unknown.

Fr. David E. Wisniewski

Wisniewski was ordained in 1981 and was removed from his parish assignment in 2002 as a result of an allegation of child sexual abuse. He was at Sacred Heart Church in Massena from 1982 to 1984; at Notre Dame in Malone in 1985; at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ogdensburg in 1986; his whereabouts in 1987 are unknown; at Camp Adirondack, a minimum security prison, from 1988 to 1989; at Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Redford in 1990; at St. Bernard Church in Lyon Mountain, which was at Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility, from 1991 to 1996; at St. Mary Church in Glenfield, St. Hedwig Church in Houseville and St. Peter Church in Lowville from 1997 to 2002; his whereabouts from 2003 to 2018 are unknown.

Fr. Paul F. Worczak

Worczak was ordained in 1968. In 2003, he was removed from ministry in the wake of an allegation that he had sexually abused a child in the early 1970s. From 1969 to 1970, he was at St. Mary in Potsdam; at Holy Family in Watertown from 1971 to 1973; at St. Patrick in Chateaugay in 1974; at St. Thomas More in Canton from 1975 to 1981; at St. Joseph in Massena from 1982 to 1989; at St. Lawrence the Martyr in 1990; at St. Andrew’s in Norwood from 1991 to 2004; his whereabouts from 2005 to 2018 are unknown.”

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