Priest Put on Leave in Sex Case
Allegations of Abuse 30 Years Ago Will Be Investigated by Diocese
By Michele Morgan Bolton
Albany Times Union
March 4, 2006
ALBANY -- A Greene County Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing a boy three decades ago has been granted a leave of absence while the allegations are investigated.
The Rev. Jeremiah Nunan, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Cairo and Our Lady of Knock Mission in East Durham, voluntarily left his ministry last week, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany said.
Nunan's parishioners were told of the plan during weekend Masses. He denies the allegations.
Diocesan spokesman Ken Goldfarb would not identify Nunan's accuser, but said the man no longer lives in the area. No legal action has been filed in the single complaint against the priest, Goldfarb said.
Goldfarb said the case has been referred to the diocese's Independent Mediation Assistance Program for investigation, at the accuser's request.
From there, it will go to the Diocesan Sexual Misconduct Review Board to determine whether reasonable grounds exist to believe the allegation. That panel will then make a recommendation to Bishop Howard Hubbard, Goldfarb said.
"We wouldn't normally release this information, without those reasonable grounds, but it was made public at Mass," Goldfarb said.
Mark Lyman, director of the Albany branch of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said both the assistance program and the misconduct review board answer to the diocese.
"When will there be a truly fair and impartial forum for victims to bring their allegations that will be heard and properly investigated?" he asked.
In April 2003, the Rev. Sean McMahon, 72, a native of Ireland and longtime parish priest at Sacred Heart Church, was removed from the ministry after admitting he sexually abused a child in the 1970s.
Before beginning his nearly three decades at his Cairo parish, McMahon had served in parishes in Troy, Schenectady, Johnstown and Whitehall.
The mediation assistance program is funded with $5 million from the diocese's self-insurance fund and a $200,000-plus contribution from former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White, whose investigation cleared Bishop Howard Hubbard of sexual misconduct allegations last year.
In the past 18 months, the program has paid out more than $1.6 million in settlements with 27 clergy sex abuse victims.
Another nine cases, including Nunan's, are in either the investigation or mediation stage. And the program, staffed by mediators from the New York State Dispute Resolution Association, will continue as long as there is an ongoing need, officials said.
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