Former West Warwick Priest Is Removed from Religious Order

By Justin Sayles
Pawtucket Times [West Warwick RI]
March 22, 2005

WEST WARWICK -- A former West Warwick priest who pleaded guilty to charges that he raped a teen-age boy in the 1970s has been removed from his religious order at his own request.

James D. Campbell, 59, was sentenced to serve 90 days in prison in January on charges of rape, assault and battery, furnishing alcohol to a minor and committing an unnatural and lascivious act after he admitted in Worcester Superior Court that he raped two male teen-agers. Campbell, who served as assistant pastor at St. Joseph Church in West Warwick from 1975 to 1978, committed the acts in Uxbridge, Mass. Both victims’ families attended the parish at the time of the incident.

Rev. Raymond Diesbourg -- a member of the governing council of Campbell’s former religious order, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Aurora, Ill. -- said Monday that Roman Catholic Church officials in Rome granted the former priest his request for "laicization," or removal from the priesthood, last month.

While the Missionaries "encouraged" Campbell to seek removal, the act isdifferent than defrocking, where the church forces the individual out of the priesthood, Diesbourg said.

"We told him that he would not be able to do any ministry," hesaid.

"According to our regulations, anyone that’s been accused of (abuse) cannot serve in any ministry."

Diesbourg could not comment on exactly why Campbell had placed the request, stating that his reasons were contained in his letter to Rome.

Robert McCarthy, a retired Massachusetts State Police lieutenant currently serving as the compliance officer for the Diocese of Providence, said Campbell would take the teen-agers over the state line into Uxbridge. There, he supplied the minors with alcohol and committed the acts against the boys, ages 14 and 16.

McCarthy said there had been a third individual in Rhode Island to makeallegations against Campbell. One of the victims is now deceased.

As a member of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Campbell traveled tovarious places throughout the world. Allegations of sexual abuse followed him, McCarthy said.

"This is not an isolated incident with him," McCarthy said. Diesbourg said the religious order was not aware the incidents were taking place while Campbell was actively working for the church.

"We had no idea this was going on while he was with us, of course, because as soon as we found out, that was that," Diesbourg said. "No more ministries, no more travels, nothing."

His decision to seek laicization is not a typical request forpriests convicted of sexual abuse, Diesbourg said.

Unlike Campbell, who is now a layperson, most priests are put into a highly-supervised program set up by the religious where they are not allowed to practice their ministry.


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