Statement of Donna M. Morrissey, Spokeswoman, Archdiocese of Boston February 25, 2002
February 25, 2002
On Wednesday, February 21, 2002, the Archdiocese of Boston, in accordance with our policy for handling of allegations of sexual misconduct with minors by clergy of the Archdiocese, placed Father D. George Spagnolia, Pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Lowell, on administrative leave and removed him from any assignment in the Archdiocese. The allegation was brought forward during the previous week, after which the Archdiocese initiated an appropriate review, and took action consistent with that required by our policy. After the review, a determination was made by the Delegate that there was reasonable cause to believe that abuse of a child under the age of 18 had occurred. The Delegate, who is a priest of the Archdiocese is appointed by the Archbishop. He is in charge of all investigations and interventions. Father Spagnolia was removed from all assignments and his name was forwarded to the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office. Our actions were consistent with those required by the policy of the Archdiocese of Boston. Father Spagnolia does have a right under canon law to challenge this decision by the Archdiocese of Boston.
Until the resolution of the investigation canonically by the Church and legally by the District Attorney's Office is complete, Father Spagnolia will not hold any assignment in the Archdiocese of Boston and is temporarily relieved of his duties as Pastor of St. Patrick Parish. We are confident and hopeful that Father Spagnolia will abide by the procedures set forth in the policy of the Archdiocese.
Our utmost priority in applying a zero tolerance standard is the protection of minors. We are at the same time however, mindful of the rights of the accused, and our policy strives to preserve those rights. Clearly stated in our policy is the following: "Because of the special difficulties surrounding ministry-related sexual misconduct, the Archdiocese may have to take some responsive steps quickly. Such actions taken in the course of an investigation should not be construed as a "conviction" of the accused cleric."
This policy of removal until the investigation is complete is similar to those followed by departments overseeing police, teachers, and hospital personnel and other persons in the public trust.
The Archdiocese of Boston, in its prompt response to this allegation of misconduct with a minor took the following actions as required by our policy:
"An examination by Church authority of the content of the allegation in order to determine its veracity."
The Delegate of the Archdiocese of Boston met with the victim and separately with the accused cleric and after those meetings determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that abuse of a minor under the age of 18 had occurred. Consequently, as required, the accused cleric was put on administrative leave and temporarily relieved of all assignments in the Archdiocese and the information was forwarded to the Suffolk County District Attorney.
"Assistance to the minor and his or her family by offering spiritual and psychological counseling as needed"
The Delegate has met with the victim and will continue to do so as needed to offer spiritual and psychological counseling. Due to the nature of the investigation process and confidentiality of the victim further details of the allegation and assistance to the victim will not be released to the media.
"Full respect of the civil and canonical rights of the accused while seeking to assist him"
During this ongoing investigation thus far we have followed and met the procedures required by the Pastoral Policy for Handling Allegations of Sexual Misconduct with Minors by Clergy of the Archdiocese. Copies of the policy from January 15, 1993, which details some of the procedures, are available from the Office of Public Relations.
"Outreach to parishes or communities that are affected through the help of a community assistance team which will provide appropriate spiritual and psychological help"
The Archdiocese of Boston provided pastoral and communications assistance to St. Patrick Parish and will continue to do so as needed. Counselors are available to the parish. All allegations of sexual misconduct with minors are taken with the utmost seriousness respecting the rights of both the person making the allegations and the cleric accused. Abuse of a minor is a crime and is morally abhorrent. It is our obligation as a Church and as a community, legally and morally, to fully investigate all allegations of abuse of a minor. In this case the allegations are from over two decades ago and despite the time elapsed the allegation must be fully investigated and a final determination made.
Due to the nature of the ongoing investigation and confidentiality involved the Archdiocese of Boston cannot and will not disclose further details in this matter to the media. Information relative to the ongoing investigation has been forwarded to the proper legal authorities.
We respect Father Spagnolia's right to discuss publicly the accusations.
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