N.H. man files sex abuse lawsuit against diocese
CONCORD, N.H. — A New Hampshire man has filed a lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Manchester, contending that he was repeatedly abused as a youth by a priest in Colebrook.
John Labbe, 53, of Plymouth, alleges that the late Rev. George St. Jean molested him for four years, beginning when he was 9 and an altar boy at St. Brendan’s parish in Colebrook.
Labbe’s lawyer said he did not realize until last year that St. Jean was one of 26 New Hampshire priests who had multiple complaints filed against them for alleged sexual abuse. The state attorney general’s office released the list in March 2009.
Labbe alleges St. Jean told him he was doing “God’s will’’ and used threats to keep him silent.
Kevin Donovan, a spokesman for the diocese, said the church had no comment at this time.
“We can’t offer any comment on the suit until it’s been reviewed by counsel,’’ Donovan said. He added that he believes St. Jean died in 1982. The lawsuit was filed in Hillsborough Superior Court North.
The lawsuit names as defendants the diocese and the Washington, D.C.-based Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, which first assigned St. Jean to Our Lady of Grace and St. Brendan’s parish in Colebrook in 1958.
Labbe’s family was devoutly Catholic, and his father volunteered to drive St. Jean from Our Lady of Grace to St. Brendan’s on Sundays to say Mass. Labbe alleges that St. Jean frequently molested him during these drives in the back seat of his family’s car.
The lawsuit contends that the diocese and the Oblates knew or should have known that multiple abuse allegations had been lodged against St. Jean, but continued to give him assignments that put him in contact with children. The suit said the diocese should have known St. Jean was “unfit, dangerous, and a threat the to the health, safety, and welfare of the minors entrusted to his counsel, care, and protection.’’