Bishop Removes Uxbridge Pastor
Rev. Doherty Admits to Early Indiscretion
By Linda Bock
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
November 20, 2006
Uxbridge — Bishop Robert J. McManus has removed the Rev. Paul J. Doherty as pastor of St. Mary's Parish, and reported him to local law enforcement authorities, because Rev. Doherty confided to the bishop on Friday that he had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with a minor more than 30 years ago.
Bishop McManus attended one Mass on Saturday and all three Masses yesterday at St. Mary's Church, 77 Mendon St. (Route 16), to inform parishioners of his decision. He read a prepared statement at all Masses.
"I come before you tonight with a saddened heart to announce that I have placed Father Paul Doherty on administrative leave so as to undergo spiritual and psychological treatment," Bishop McManus said. The bishop told parishioners that Rev. Doherty, who has served as pastor of the parish since September 2000, asked to meet with him Friday. It was the day after Bishop McManus returned from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore.
"During the meeting, Father confided to me that he had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with a minor more than 30 years ago. Because of the serious nature of this admission, I had to relieve Father of his duties as pastor of the parish and to remove his faculties as priest," Bishop McManus said.
The announcement means Rev. Doherty may not celebrate Mass or present himself as a cleric by wearing a priest's clothing. The term "faculties" refers to the permission priests have from their local bishop to function as priests and administer sacraments.
Rev. Doherty, 58, was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Worcester 11 years ago, when he was 47. He served as associate pastor at St. Patrick Parish in Whitinsville and St. Mary's Parish in Shrewsbury before being named pastor of St. Mary's in Uxbridge, which serves some 5,000 parishioners.
"I truly realize that this kind of news is a shock for you, as it has been for me," Bishop McManus said. "I ask that you join me in prayer for the parish and school communities, as well as for those who have been hurt in any way by sexual misconduct. And of course, please keep Father Paul in your prayers."
Bishop McManus was available to parishioners after the Masses, along with Frances Nugent, co-director of the Worcester Diocese Office of Healing and Prevention.
"I pray that God's all-powerful grace may bring you comfort and healing in the weeks and months ahead," Bishop McManus said.
Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte said last night that a lawyer for the diocese called Friday to report Rev. Doherty's admission.
"But we don't have any information, and no victim" to pursue the case at this time, Mr. Conte said.
"You could have heard a pin drop," said Sheryl A. Klei, a parishioner, who attended the 5 p.m. Mass on Saturday. Shortly afterward, there was open sobbing, she said. "Everyone's so sad; he was the nicest guy. Everyone loved Father Paul and we're all very sad. He's a beloved priest."
The Rev. John Kelley, a semiretired priest, is assigned to St. Mary's. He spent much of yesterday fielding calls. He said Bishop McManus' announcement was very compassionate, very direct and succinct.
"Everybody was shocked, though there were varied reactions. Most people were saddened; he was a wonderful pastor," Rev. Kelley said. "Some people felt betrayed."
Raymond L. Delisle, Worcester Diocese spokesman, said the diocese had received no specific allegations in regard to Rev. Doherty. He would not speculate on the duration of the administrative leave.
"No one's complained," Mr. Delisle said. He said church officials don't know why Rev. Doherty came forward Friday. "At this point, we've got to figure out answers."
He said Bishop McManus immediately contacted authorities Friday, and will fully inform church authorities in Rome, as in any other such case.
Mr. Delisle said Bishop McManus would probably appoint a temporary administrator to St. Mary's in Uxbridge, and hold follow-up meetings with parish staff.
"Paul was a very, very loved pastor," Mr. Delisle said.
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