Sexual abuse allegation made against former Cape priest
By Denise Coffey
Cape Cod Times
January 26, 2020
A retired priest with ties to the Cape has been suspended by The Diocese of Fall River over an allegation that he sexually abused a minor 20 years ago.
The decision to suspend Rev. Herbert T. Nichols was based on information from a review of personnel files of diocesan priests, according to a statement from the diocese.
Nichols has denied the allegation, the statement said.
Nichols, who was ordained in 1975, served at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Orleans as well as parishes in Fall River, New Bedford, Taunton and Raynham. His ministry included Franciscan Friars of the Renewal Community in New York.
As a retired priest, Nichols was not assigned to a parish at the time of his suspension. However, he participated in celebration Masses in various parishes, including with the diocese’s Maronite Community.
The diocese is conducting an investigation into the allegation against Nichols, who is suspended from all ministry until the investigation is completed and a determination is made.
Last year, the diocese hired an independent consultant to complete an evaluation of its priestly personnel files. Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., informed parishioners that a list of credibly accused clergy would follow.
The diocese suspended some priests in response to information gathered during the file evaluation pending further investigation, as required under its policies.
Those included the Revs. James F. Buckley and Edward J. Byington, two priests with ties to Cape parishes, who were suspended last week. Both have denied the allegations against them.
“The task of evaluating all of the files and the response needed on our part as a result of the findings have, regretfully, taken more time than first thought,” Bishop da Cunha said in the statement. “It is crucial that we take the time and perform the diligence necessary to compile a list that is accurate and complete, and we continue to do so.”
“I understand that these recent announcements regarding the suspensions of priests are upsetting to our diocesan community of faith and often bring renewed pain to victims of sexual abuse especially victims of sexual abuse by clergy,” da Cunha added. “I continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who have suffered greatly.”
The diocese recently hired licensed social worker Carolyn Shipp to focus on pastoral outreach to victims/survivors.
“As a social worker, I am here to listen to anyone with concerns and to connect survivors to the resources they need,” Shipp said in the statement.
Anyone with information regarding the conduct of any past or present member of the diocese is encouraged to contact Shipp at 508-985-6508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.