|Retired Priest Accused of Sexual Misconduct
By Sally Rose
March 20, 2008
A retired priest, Father Bento R. Fraga, who formerly served in Provincetown in the late 1980s and early '90s, has been removed from the ministry after an investigation into an allegation of improper sexual conduct determined the allegation to be "credible."
According to a press release sent out by the Fall River Diocese, the accusation is a single claim of sexual misconduct with a minor that allegedly occurred in 1979 at a private residence. At the time, Fraga was serving as pastor at Holy Ghost Parish in Attleboro.
Fraga served at St. Peter the Apostle Church in Provincetown for about five years, from 1987 to 1992. He retired in 2005 after service in Taunton. Fraga was ordained in 1956.
A letter from Bishop George Coleman explaining Father Fraga's removal was read this past weekend at Masses at all of the parishes where he has been assigned.
John Kearns, the Fall River Diocese's public information officer, said Tuesday that the allegation was reported to the diocese in January. And, after consideration, its review board found the allegation to be credible. It has been reported to the appropriate district attorney's office, he added.
The diocese's review board, made up of seven to 10 people, mostly laypeople and one priest, reviews allegations of misconduct and serves as an advisory board to the bishop on policy regarding abuse prevention. Serving currently on the board are a social worker with experience in abuse, a civil attorney, a retired judge, a retired state police officer, a victim of abuse, a parent of an abuse victim and a canon lawyer. There's also a bishop's delegate who serves as chair. The current delegate is a retired probation and social worker, said Kearns.
In cases like this one, the board talks to the accused priest, the person bringing the complaint and any possible witnesses, he said.
"In the end they are asked to come to a decision as to whether the allegation is credible, and then they bring that decision to the bishop," said Kearns.
Chester Cook, retired deacon at St. Peter's, said he was shocked by the report. He remembers Father Fraga as "a gentle man, a spiritual man." Cook added that he has "nothing but good memories" about the priest.
Cook first met Fraga when he was in high school and worked with Fraga, who was in training at the time, at St. Peter's cemetery.
"I wasn't here for his whole service; I was up in Maine," he said. "I'm so upset by this whole thing."
St. Peter's parishioner Beverly Ferreira told the Banner, "We don't know what to think, except that it can't be true."
She said she and her husband, Gordon, went to Fraga's retirement event two years ago in Fall River.
"We knew him well and loved him to death," she said. "My husband was an altar boy when Father Fraga was newly ordained. I'm just blown away."
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