Rev. Walsh Removed from Parish
Oxford Priest, a State Police Chaplain, Is Accused of Molesting a Boy
By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
March 22, 2002
The Rev. Gerard P. Walsh, a Catholic chaplain of the Massachusetts State Police, was removed from his position after state police were notified that he allegedly molested a boy when he was assigned to Our Lady of the Lake parish in the Whalom district of Leominster.
He was also removed Tuesday from his parish assignment at St. Roch's Church in Oxford by the Worcester diocese, pending investigation into the charges by District Attorney John J. Conte.
Mr. Conte said yesterday he was notified of the allegation by state police, and followed his policy in immediately turning the information over to Bishop Daniel P. Reilly.
In cases of a "sitting priest," meaning one still working in a parish,- the district attorney said, he will notify the bishop immediately of allegations of child abuse made against priests or other church workers.
He said the allegation against Rev. Walsh goes back more than 20 years and is clearly beyond the statute of limitations, which is 15 years for rape and six years for indecent assault and battery.
"The bishop has acted. He has recently removed three sitting priests," the district attorney said. Bishop Reilly recently removed the Rev. John J. Bagley from St. Mary's parish, North Grafton, and the Rev. Lee F. Bartlett from Sacred Heart parish, Worcester, after allegations of sexual misconduct with minors were brought to his attention.
Capt. Robert J. Bird, spokesman for the state police, said Rev. Walsh was one of three Catholic priests serving as chaplains. The chaplains, who also include three Protestant clergy and one rabbi, are called where they are needed throughout Massachusetts, Capt. Bird said. They assist state police officers who may seek their help with personal problems and are available to do weddings, baptisms and funerals.
Capt. Bird said Rev. Walsh had served as a chaplain for 19 years and, to his knowledge, there were no previous complaints about him or other chaplains.
Thomas E. Bedard of Leominster said he called the Boston Herald on Tuesday to make his allegations known because he was looking for the widest publicity for his allegations.
He told the Herald that Rev. Walsh admitted to the abuse in a letter he signed last Friday. Mr. Bedard said Rev. Walsh showed him a sexually explicit picture, gave him alcoholic beverages to drink and touched his genitals on more than one occasion while they were involved in what he called "friendly wrestling."
Raymond L. Delisle, spokesman for the diocese, said Mr. Bedard made an allegation in 1998 that was investigated by the diocese. Rev. Walsh "vehemently denied" the allegation at that time, he said. "It became a he said versus he said situation," Mr. Delisle said. The diocese did not have enough information to warrant removing Rev. Walsh at that time, he said.
The diocese removed him Tuesday after it received information that Rev. Walsh may have admitted to the allegations. Mr. Bedard told the Herald that he gave a copy of Rev. Walsh's statement to state police on Monday.
Mr. Bedard told the Herald that he got a telephone call from Monsignor Thomas J. Sullivan, diocesan chancellor, saying he received a copy of the Walsh statement from Mr. Conte's office. Mr. Delisle said Monsignor Sullivan called Mr. Bedard Tuesday to offer support and to explain that his allegation was being worked on. Mr. Delisle said the issue of monetary compensation came up and Monsignor Sullivan told Mr. Bedard that no such discussions could be held unless he retained legal counsel.
Rev. Walsh was ordained in 1974 and served in Clinton, Whalom and Grafton before Oxford.
Bishop Reilly said in a statement that he placed Rev. Walsh on administrative leave effective Wednesday. The priest will not engage in "any public ministry in this diocese or elsewhere. In keeping with our policy, we will cooperate fully with the district attorney's office in their investigation of this allegation," the bishop said.
Monsignor Louis Piermarini, who lives at St. Roch's rectory, will oversee the parish and will preside at all Masses this weekend. As he has done with other priest removals, the bishop said Monsignor Piermarini will be available to express his concern to parishioners and offer the support of the diocese in what is a difficult time for them.
"I will also be conferring with parish leaders to determine what additional assistance is needed by the parish," Bishop Reilly said.
"I ask for your prayers and support for the person making the allegation and the person's family, as well as the entire St. Roch parish family, which Father Walsh has served as pastor since 1993," he said.
"My prayers and encouragement are with all members of our diocesan family during these trying times which are so difficult for everyone. We pledge, once again, our continued commitment to work toward the protection and well-being of children in our care," he said.
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