Lee Podles raises some questions about a Boston priest once employed by EWTN who had a series of allegations of sex abuse lodged against him. The timeline is a bit convoluted so go to the link to get the whole thing, but the gist is that Fr. Ray Bourque, ordained in 1954, has been accused of abusing boys in Maine and Massachusetts and allegedly admitted to at least some of the charges. In 1993, he was sent by his religious order, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), from Boston to work at EWTN. Around the same time, a notation was made in Bourque’s file of accusations in 1980 and the archdiocese contacted the OMI.
It wasn’t until December 1994 that Bourque was withdrawn by his order from EWTN (after a series of actions… again read the link above). The archdiocese subsequently said that Bourque’s appearances on TV were causing distress to his victims and said his TV ministry should cease. However, in October 1995 Bourque was allowed to return to EWTN albeit without permission to be on TV. He could only work behind the scenes. Nevertheless, Bourque was acting as a priest, running retreats, and promoting talks and a video. Bourque was known to be working at EWTN as late as 2002.
Now Podles has a letter from William Stellmeier, chairman of EWTN, explaining Bourque’s situation. It could be that EWTN truly didn’t know what Bourque was accused of or that the accusations were credible. Stellmeier says they didn’t know about it when he started working there, and only knew “the general reasons” for Bourque being pulled in 1994. He adds that Bourque was allowed to return in 1995 “in the spirit of compassion,” and that EWTN had no knowledge of “specific allegations.” Still, Podles says Stellmeier’s letter leaves several questions unanswered.
The fact that Bourque was employed there is not necessarily a sign of guilt or complicity on the part of EWTN. They may have been duped by Bourque or his order or they may have made some bad assumptions. I think it’s in the best interests of EWTN to clear up the questions.