Assignment Record– Rev. Bernard W. Bissonnette (Bissonette)
Summary of Case: Bernard "Fr. Barney" Bissonnette was ordained in 1958 for the Diocese of Norwich CT. It wasn't long before he was first transferred out of a parish due to allegations of child sexual abuse, in 1959. He cycled through four parishes in the Norwich diocese, removed each time due to allegations, then was sent in 1963 to to the Servants of the Paraclete's Via Coeli in Jemez Springs NM for treatment. His Norwich bishop would not allow him to return to the diocese due to his "notoriety," but continued to support him financially. Bissonnette went to the Duluth MN diocese for a short time 1965-66, spending time at parish and in treatment at another Servants of the Paraclete facility. He returned to NM, where he worked in parishes until 1992; he also was chaplain of a correctional facility for boys until his removal in 1978, due to allegations he sexually abused "inmates." Bissonnette has been the subject of a number of lawsuits. One accuser said Bissonnette's abuse in the early 1960s included his forcing the boy to perform sex acts on other children.
In 1993 three CT brothers of a Bissonnette victim, who took his own life in 1991, traveled to NM to confront the priest. Their father had reported the brother's abuse to the Norwich diocese in 1963, after which Bissonnette was sent to NM. Bissonnette admitted the abuse to the victim's brothers when confronted, while minimizing the extent. The brothers found that Bissonnette was living at the time with a Belen NM family which included small children. The family ignored their warnings about the priest; the brothers reported the situation to the diocese and state police. Bissonnette was laicized in 2005. He died in NM in 2008.
Born: October 1931
Norwich bishop was Bernard Joseph Flanagan (1953-1959).
|1958||Christ the King||
|CT||assistant for a few months||
• Bissonnette was transferred from here after three months due to allegations of sexual abuse.
Flanagan was succeeded by Vincent Joseph Hines (1959-1975).
• Per news reports, Bissonnette was transferred by 1962 because of parishioners complaints of "familiarities with boys." At least one accuser filed suit decades later, claiming Bissonnette repeatedly sexually assaulted him 1960-62, and forced him to perform sex acts on other children.
|CT||2/2||All Hallows had a school with 330 students.|
|1959||1962||St. Joseph's||Sterling||CT||This was a mission of All Hallows in Moosup.|
|1959||1961||Oneco||CT||This was a station of All Hallows in Moosup.|
|June 1962||1963||St. Mary's||
• Accused in 1963 of sexually abusing two boys. In 1993, three brothers in a CT family confronted Bissonnette in NM for sexually abusing their brother, Tommy Deary, including rape, when he was an altar boy in 1962 at St. Mary's; Tommy committed suicide in 1991.
|CT||3/3||Tommy Deary told his mother in April 1993 of his abuse by Bissonnette. His father reported the disclosure to a St. Mary's monsignor, and Bissonnette was moved out of state.|
|1963||1965||Retired/Sick Leave||Sent to the Servants of the Paraclete's Via Coeli in NM for treatment after allegations he sexually abused boys. Norwich bishop would not allow Bissonnette to return to the diocese because of his "notoriety," but the diocese continued to support him.|
Duluth bishop was Francis Joseph Schenk (1960-1969).
|1966||St. James||West Duluth||MN||3/3||
St. James' had a school with 257 students.
Sent briefly to a Paraclete's facility for treatment in MN (Nevis), then returned to NM.
Santa Fe archbishop was James Peter Davis (1964-1974).
• Sued in 1997 by a man alleging sexual abuse when he was a child at St. Anne's by Bissonnette, 1966-68.
|1966||1968||Agua Fria, Cinega, Cineguilla||NM||These were missions of St. Anne's in Santa Fe.|
|May 1968||Via Coeli||Jemez Springs||NM||patient||Sent here again after "familiar" complaints.|
|1968||1979||The Directories index Bissonnette as "on duty outside the diocese" for Norwich. The Norwich pages list him as at St. Anne's in Santa Fe NM, but he is not listed as there in the Santa Fe pages.|
• Bissonnette was accused in a November 2015 lawsuit of raping a St. Alice's altar boy, ages 7-12, hundreds of times 1968-73.
|NM||This assignment is per news reports.|
Davis was replaced as Santa Fe archbishop by Robert Fortune Sanchez (1974-1993).
• Bissonette was dismissed from this assignment in 1978 due to allegations of abuse of juvenile "inmates.
This assignment is per news reports.
The Boys' School was a juvenile correctional facility.
|1981||1982||Indexed as "on duty outside the diocese [of Norwich] in the 1982 Directory. Not listed as at St. Bernadette's in Albuquerque.|
The Las Cruces diocese was established in August 1982. It's bishop was Ricardo Ramirez, C.S.B. (1982-2013).
|1982||1983||San Patricio||Picacho||NM||This was a mission of St. Eleanor's in Ruidoso.|
|1982||1983||Alto, Tinnie, Sunset, Riverside, Arabela, Angus, Ruidoso Down, Glencoe, Hondo, Biscuit Hills||NM|
|1983||1984||St. Jude Thaddeus||San Patricio||NM||This was a mission of St. Eleanor's in Ruidoso.|
|1983||1984||St. Joseph's||Picacho||NM||This was a mission of St. Eleanor's in Ruidoso.|
|1984||1985||Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of Mary||Las Cruces||NM||4/4||The Cathedral had a school with 250 students.|
|1987||1992||Our Lady of Perpetual Help||Truth or Consequences||NM||1/1|
|1987||1992||St. Joseph's||Cuchillo||NM||This was a mission of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Truth or Consequences.|
|1987||1992||San Miguel||Rancho San Miguel||NM||This was a mission of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Truth or Consequences.|
|1987||1992||San Isidro||Las Palomas||NM||This was a mission of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Truth or Consequences.|
|1987||1992||St. Ignatius||Montecello||NM||This was a mission of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Truth or Consequences.|
|1987||1992||San Lorenzo||Placitas||NM||This was a mission of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Truth or Consequences.|
|1987||1992||St. Gregory's||Chise||NM||This was a chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Truth or Consequences.|
|1987||1992||San Miguel||Rancho San Miguel||NM||This was a chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Truth or Consequences.|
|1987||1992||St. James||Eagle||NM||This was a station of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Truth or Consequences.|
This was a station of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Truth or Consequences.
Bissonnette is not indexed beyond the 1992 Directory.
When the Deary brothers confronted Bissonnette in 1993, they found that the priest was living in Belen NM with a family with small children; the NM family wouldn't listen to their warnings about Bissonnette. The brothers said they informed NM state police and the Santa Fe chancery about the situation. They also said Bissonnette minimized it, but admitted to having abused their brother in the early 1960s. The Deary brothers pressured the Church to have Bissonnette defrocked.
Bissonnette was laicized May 20, 2005, as announced in March 2006.
He died December 24, 2008 in Belen.
Sources: Official Catholic Directory (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1958-1992)