Bishop Seeks Priests' Resignations
Reilly Wants New Pastors
By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette
May 16, 2003
The seven priests removed last year by Bishop Daniel P. Reilly for alleged sexual misconduct are being asked to resign their positions so that permanent replacements can be appointed.
Raymond L. Delisle, spokesman for the Worcester Catholic Diocese, said he does not know whether any of the priests have resigned, but he said the bishop has other administrative procedures he can use to remove them if they decline to resign.
They are being asked to resign so that the parishes can "move forward," Mr. Delisle said.
The priests and their parishes are: The Rev. John J. Bagley of St. Mary Church in North Grafton; the Rev. Gerard P. Walsh of St. Roch Church in Oxford; the Rev. Chester J. Devlin of St. Bernadette Church in Northboro; the Rev. Peter J. Inzerillo, associate pastor of St. Leo Church in Leominster; the Rev. Joseph A. Coonan of St. John Church, Worcester; the Rev. Lee F. Bartlett of Sacred Heart Church, Worcester; the Rev. Raymond P. Messier of St. Francis Church in Athol and St. Peter Church in Petersham.
Rev. Bartlett and Rev. Messier have pending civil suits against them alleging sexual misconduct, but no suits have been filed against the other accused pastors. None has been charged with criminal offenses. Rev. Inzerillo was named in a civil suit that was settled.
Mr. Delisle said all these parishes that lost pastors now have temporary administrators. He said the bishop cannot appoint permanent replacements until the pastors resign or are removed.
"The priests are on leave. They are still officially pastors of these parishes," Mr. Delisle said.
The priests were removed during the past year, and some parishes have been without permanent pastors for a year or several months.
The Rev. Jean-Paul Gagnon of St. Augustine parish, Millville, who was named in a civil suit alleging sexual abuse of Timothy P. Staney of Worcester, is on personal leave, which is different from the administrative leave imposed on the others. That parish is currently being served by a priest who comes in from Shrewsbury to celebrate weekend Masses.
Six of the priests were offered trials before a church tribunal as a way to defend themselves against allegations, but the process of setting up the church courts has been slow, Mr. Delisle said. Rev. Coonan is exempt from the tribunals because the allegations made against him happened before he was ordained.
Mr. Delisle said he expects the dioceses of New England will opt for regional tribunals, "but I am not aware of any specific timetables to be able to gauge if it is going slowly or quickly."
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