Parishioners Shocked at Priest's Admission of Sexual Abuse
By Danielle Williamson and Joyce Kelly
Milford Daily News
November 21, 2006
Uxbridge -- Days after the Worcester bishop told them their priest is on leave for engaging in "inappropriate sexual behavior with a minor more than 30 years ago," the St. Mary's community is coping with the loss of Father Paul.
The Rev. Paul Doherty was placed on paid administrative leave Friday after he told Bishop Robert J. McManus of the sexual conduct, which occurred decades before he entered the priesthood, the Diocese of Worcester announced this week.
The pastor of St. Mary's Parish since September 2000, Doherty, 58, was also involved with the administration of Our Lady of the Valley Regional School at the church. Worcester diocese spokesman Raymond Delisle said letters went home with all students yesterday notifying parents of Doherty's departure.
"It was a shock, to say the least," said parent JoAnn Larrivee, who was at Mass with her husband and four children Sunday when the bishop announced the news. "We're feeling sorry for Father Paul and we're keeping the victim in mind."
Delisle said he does not know the sex, age or hometown of the alleged victim. Doherty was in his mid- to late-20s at the time, and years away from becoming a priest.
Doherty was ordained a priest for the Worcester diocese in 1995. He was associate pastor at St. Patrick's Church in Whitinsville and St. Mary's Church in Shrewsbury before coming to Uxbridge.
Doherty moved out of the rectory this weekend, Delisle said, and will seek spiritual and psychological treatment. The bishop made an announcement at all weekend Masses.
Delisle did not know where Doherty would seek help, or if the bishop would return Doherty to an active church role. The Worcester diocese has informed District Attorney John Conte and Rome of Doherty's admission, he said.
Delisle did not say why Doherty chose to come forward Friday.
He said he does not support the contention of some victims of sexual abuse by priests that St. Mary's in Uxbridge has been a "dumping ground" for accused pedophile priests in the Worcester diocese, as it is the farthest geographical point from the central communities.
In the early 1990s, Mark Barry, of Uxbridge, claimed he was sexually assaulted beginning at age 9 by the Rev. Thomas A. Kane, then a visiting pastor at St. Mary's. In 1996, David Lewcon filed a civil lawsuit against the Worcester diocese and the Rev. Thomas Teczar of Dudley, alleging that he was repeatedly sexually abused by Teczar in 1971 and 1972, when Teczar was assigned to St. Mary's.
Doherty has never been accused of sexually abusing anyone, according to Delisle, and therefore there would be no reason to shuffle him around, as prosecutors in other cases have accused the Worcester diocese and Catholic Church of doing in the past.
The Rev. John Kelley, a priest in residence at St. Mary's, will serve as St. Mary's pastor until the diocese appoints a replacement for Doherty.
Ultimately, Delisle said, the decision about whether Doherty would be defrocked rests in Vatican City.
"As in all (such) cases, he will have to report to Rome," Delisle said.
There will be a meeting for parents at 7 p.m. today at the school.
Three of the four Larrivee children are students at Our Lady of the Valley. A fourth graduated from the school several years ago.
Larrivee said her children love Doherty and are devastated that he is gone.
"My oldest daughter commented, 'It happened 30 years ago. That's not the man I know,'" Larrivee recalled. "We are in the business of forgiveness."
Danielle Williamson can be reached at 508-634-7552 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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