Ex-New Bedford priest sued for alleged sex abuse in late 1980s


NEW BEDFORD – A former New Bedford priest is being sued by an Acushnet man who was once an altar boy in Saint Anthony of Padua Parish for alleged sexual abuse that took place more than 30 years ago, when he was 12 and 13 years old.

The Reverend Richard Degagne is accused of repeatedly sexually abusing Jason Medeiros in a lawsuit that was filed in Bristol County Superior Court on July 18.

According to the lawsuit, Medeiros was a student and altar boy at St. Anthony’s Church in Padua from 1988 to 1991, aged 12 to 15. He also participated in a group of young Catholics at the Church of Saint-Antoine de Padoue under the direction of Degagne during this same period.

Degagne allegedly abused Medeiros at least three times in his rectory bedroom and at least twice in his car when Medeiros was 12 and 13 years old. Degagne also allegedly abused him in or near New Bedford during an overnight trip to Maine when Medeiros was 12 years old.

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Degagne is one of three priests whose “credible accusation” of child abuse was substantiated by the Diocese of Fall River in December 2021, according to a press release issued by SNAP, the network of survivors of people abused by priests.

The statement said Degagne was removed from his post in 2019 and will not return to work, according to the diocese at the time, despite the former priest’s rejection of the allegations.

Medeiros is represented by Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston-based attorney who is internationally recognized for his work and advocacy on behalf of victims and survivors of sexual abuse, including for his work in clergy sexual abuse cases in Boston that led to the success of John J. Geoghan. prosecution in 2002.

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Degagne, who was ordained in 1982 and is now in his late 60s, worked with St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford from about 1986 to 1991, according to the complaint detailed in the release. Prior to being suspended from the ministry, he had worked in East Freetown, Attleboro, Fall River, New Bedford and Taunton, the statement said.

He currently resides in Brownfield, Maine, but is still listed on the Fall River Diocese website as “discontinued faculties,” according to the statement.

The three-count trial seeks a jury trial to determine damages, as well as award costs and attorney’s fees, for mental distress and emotional injury.

According to the SNAP press release, “The brave victim who brought this case forward this year has finally ‘aged’ into the news. He was only 20 when the Boston scandal broke. Imagine the countless victims who were like him. According to our accounts and since the year 2000, 350 priests have been charged, which represents only 10% of the abuses.”

The statement added, “Reports from the 1990s will become mainstream in a few years,” as victims age and come forward.


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