Priest Quizzed in Kiddie Porn Case

By J.M. Lawrence
Boston Herald [Massachusetts]
November 2, 2004

A New Bedford priest is under investigation for receiving child pornography after Catholic leaders from the Diocese of Fall River told authorities kiddie porn was found on a computer.

The Rev. Stephen A. Fernandes, 54, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima, has been placed on administrative leave during an investigation by Bristol District Attorney Paul F. Walsh Jr.'s office.

In a statement, Walsh commended Bishop George Coleman "for his direct and prompt action in this matter."

Ann Bruno, a member of the lay group Voice of the Faithful, was unfamiliar with the case but praised the church's response to what the diocese in a statement termed "a credible allegation of illegal activity." "I'm very happy Bishop Coleman did the correct thing," Bruno said. "I compliment the bishop for following the right course of action that should be followed and should have been followed for years."

Diocesan spokesman John E. Kearns would not say where or when the pornography was found. The computer has been seized by the DA's office. On Sunday, Monsignor John A. Perry, who is vicar general for the diocese, attended Mass at Fernandes' parish and delivered the news to his flock.

In a statement, the diocese said, "According to the policies of the Fall River diocese and state law, the allegation has been referred to the District Attorney's Office and brought to the attention of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services."

Kearns said notifying DSS is now established "protocol" and would not comment further.

Fernandes, who became a priest more than 25 years ago, was transferred to the New Bedford parish in 2002 after spending two years at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Hyannis.


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