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  Pelham Priest in Abuse Probe
Richard on Leave at St. Patrick Parishafter Sex Allegations Reported to Police

By Jeff Skruck and Jack Minch
Lowell Sun (Lowell, MA)
April 26, 2002

PELHAM, N.H. The state Attorney General's Office is investigating allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor brought against a local Catholic priest.

The Rev. Edward D. Richard has been placed on "administrative leave" from St. Patrick Parish, according to a press release from the Manchester Diocese. Sources said Richard has also been removed from the rectory.

Bishop John B. McCormack of the Manchester Diocese will be celebrating Mass this weekend at St. Patrick Parish in Father Edward's place.

"The Bishop plans to talk to the parish," said Pat McGee, spokesman for the Diocese, who declined to comment on the police investigation. "The Bishop believes whenever something occurs to a parish ... the Bishop would first like to talk with those parishioners."

The allegations were reported to the Merrimack Police Department, which were then brought to the attention of the county attorney before it was brought to the state Attorney General's Office.

Merrimack police declined comment, saying only the Attorney General's Office would be releasing information.

"We've been working closely with the county attorneys," said William Delker, chief of the criminal justice bureau for the state Attorney General. "We don't get involved with these matters unless they are of significant prosecution."

Delker, who is coordinating allegations currently facing priests throughout the state, declined to discuss any details of the allegations against Father Richard, and declined to say when the allegations came forward.

A press release from the Manchester Diocese stated that the alleged abuse did not occur in St. Patrick Parish, and did not involve anyone from the parish. St. Patrick is the town's only Catholic church.

Richard is one of two Catholic priests removed from parishes this week amid allegations they molested children. The Rev. George H. Robichaud, pastor of St. Cecilia's in Wolfeboro and St. Joan of Arc in Alton, was arrested yesterday and charged with aggravated felonious sexual assault. He is accused of assaulting a boy between the ages of 13 and 16 in 1985.

Robichaud's arrest marks the first charges filed against a New Hampshire priest since the growing church abuse scandal began dominating headlines late last year.

In a prepared statement, McCormack said he is "saddened by the news of the allegation" against Richard.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the parishioners ... and especially with anyone who has suffered hurt by a priest," McCormack said. "While these reports remain under investigation, even accusations of abuse wound the church. We must remain confident that the Lord can heal us."

The diocese reported that an internal investigation will be conducted after the conclusion of the civil investigation.

Police have not charged Richard with any crime yet, Delker said.

Richard has worked at St. Patrick Parish in Pelham for about 15 years. He was appointed pastor on June 15, 1988, after serving 15 years in Merrimack.

"He's a wonderful man," said parishioner Lynne Shea, who has attended mass at St. Patrick since moving to Pelham in 1988. "He's been the incredible foundation for my whole family for spiritual well-being.

"It didn't matter what your religion was," added Shea, who, with her husband Daniel, is a eucharistic minister and a CCD teacher. 'Father Ed' was there for you always.

"I know he's innocent," Shea added.

Richard has been the chaplain for the fire and police departments since arriving at St. Patrick. He was previously a chaplain for the Merrimack and Manchester fire departments.

Pelham Fire Chief E. David Fisher said he and the department continue to support Richard. Fisher refused to accept Richard's resignation when he called Tuesday morning.

"I did not accept his letter of resignation, and instead put him on administrative leave from the Fire Department until [allegations] are investigated or until charges have been made or he is convicted," Fisher said. "In today's world, a person is still innocent until proven guilty."

Fisher is not Catholic, but said he plans to attend Mass this weekend to hear what McCormack has to say about the allegations.

 
 

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