NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — A former altar boy and student at St. Anthony of Padua School is accusing a former priest of sexually abusing him in the rectory, in his car, and during an overnight trip to Maine more than 30 years ago.
The Diocese of Fall River had barred the Rev. Richard E. Degagne from the ministry in February and added his name to the list of clergy who were credibly accused of sexual abuse of children.
Now, an Acushnet man is alleging that Degagne had molested him repeatedly when he was 12 and 13 years old in 1988 and 1989.
In a lawsuit filed in Bristol County Superior Court in late July, Jason Medeiros said that the abuse caused him severe emotional distress, anger, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and attempted suicide.
His lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, said in a statement that the civil complaint “indicates the moral failure of Bishop Daniel A. Cronin, who was Bishop at the time of the alleged sexual abuse, and the Diocese of Fall River to protect an innocent child.”
Medeiros “is showing tremendous courage by coming forward and confronting the evils of clergy sexual abuse,” Garabedian added.
Degagne, whose last known address is in Brownfield, Maine, could not be reached for comment Thursday. There was no lawyer listed on his behalf at court, and no response to the lawsuit.
Degagne had been ordained in 1982 and was assigned to several Massachusetts parishes over the next three decades, including St. John in Attleboro, Holy Name in Fall River, St. Anthony of Padua in New Bedford, Notre Dame in Fall River, Sacred Heart in North Attleboro, Immaculate Conception in Taunton, and St. John Neumann in East Freetown.
Degagne was pastor at Immaculate Conception in Easton when allegations surfaced against him in 2019. The Diocese suspended him and eventually barred him from the ministry.
“Despite the constant rhetoric from church officials that the sexual abuse scandal is a thing of the past, this recent case tells us it is very much a thing of the present and the future,” SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said in a statement Friday. “Silence and secrecy are the norms among the church hierarchs and it guarantees more abuse, more pain, and a greater cost to society.”