GILMANTON, N.H. - A Roman Catholic summer camp for children has become a target of sex abuse allegations from former campers, including a man who said he was sexually assaulted in the chapel by a former camp director in 1972.
According to court records and interviews with alleged victims and their lawyers, at least eight clergymen, some accused by more than one person, face allegations involving Camp Fatima, a collection of lakeside cabins run by the Diocese of Manchester.
Authorities do say all the allegations concern assaults reputed to have taken place at least a decade ago.
"There was some bad stuff going on there. There had to be some complete breakdown in administrative supervision of the place," said Peter Hutchins, who represents four men who say they were molested at Fatima.
One alleged victim has accused the former director of the camp, the Rev. Karl Dowd, of sexually assaulting him in the chapel when he was 9 years old and had just been chosen as an altar boy, Hutchins said.
The man, who lives in Manchester and is 39, declined to be interviewed, saying it would be too painful.
Hutchins said the assault is alleged to have occurred as Dowd was preparing the boy for his new duties.
"Father Dowd told him he had to remove his clothes to put the altar boy cassock on. As he was doing that Father Dowd fondled him," Hutchins said. The man says the assault stopped when someone walked in.
Dowd, the camp's director from 1968 to 1990, died three months ago.
Patrick McGee, spokesman for the diocese, said the church has not received any complaints about Dowd or other priests at the camp. He said the diocese has not paid any settlements stemming from allegations of sexual abuse there.
Lawyer Roderick MacLeish, who has settled dozens of sexual abuse cases against the Archdiocese of Boston, said alleged victims told him a "substantial number" of priests used the camp as a place for sex with boys.
They said priests from Massachusetts would visit the camp, sometimes bringing boys from their communities, MacLeish said. He said alleged victims told him the priests often took boys to a home near the camp, got them drunk and molested them.
"It was constant," said another of Hutchins' clients, a man who attended the camp for several years during the early 1970s. "It was nothing to see somebody take a little kid, go into a cabin, close all the shutters."
The Hudson man, who asked not to be identified, said such activity was a forbidden subject.
"You'd see kids for about a week and they'd be absolutely fine. Then you'd see them the next day and they'd be freaked out and their parents would come and get them and they'd leave. Nobody would ever say anything," he said.
In New Hampshire, nearly 50 current or former priests already face sexual assault allegations.