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  Ousted Priest Faces Another Accuser Complainant
Abuse Started in the 1960s

By Bruce Nolan
The Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA]
November 11, 2003

A former New Orleans priest relieved of his ministry for alleged sexual abuse of a minor is now the subject of another complaint dating to his days as a seminarian in Baltimore almost 40 years ago.

Robert Mahoney, who now lives in Puerto Rico, said he filed the complaint against Charles Coyle, who served at Jesuit and Holy Cross high schools, a number of New Orleans parishes and did personal ministry around New Orleans in the 1980s and 1990s.

In a letter to The Times-Picayune, Mahoney said he had several sexual encounters with Coyle in the mid-1960s, when he was about 15 and Coyle, in his early 30s, was a student at the now-closed Woodstock College, a Jesuit seminary near Baltimore.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore posted a statement on its Web site Oct. 7 acknowledging the allegation against Coyle. The Rev. Tom Stahel of the Society of Jesus' New Orleans province, also confirmed that it had received the complaint, although neither office as a matter of routine would identify the complainant.

Coyle was relieved of his duties as a priest in April 2002 when an unidentified youth filed suit in Newton, Mass., claiming that in the early 1970s Coyle molested him and another youth, who later committed suicide. Coyle was then working as a guidance and drug counselor in a public school.

Mahoney said his last sexual encounter with Coyle was in 1973 in Massachusetts. He said his life has been "in turmoil" for years. He said he recently attempted suicide.

He declined to respond to several telephone calls or e-mails seeking clarification, including why he is bringing the complaint so long after the alleged incident.

In the 19 months since the Massachusetts allegation Coyle, now 71, has had health problems, Stahel said.

"He's had an operation. He's been spending a lot of time praying, consulting with friends, reading. But he's not active as (a) priest," Stahel said.

Under church law a priest accused of sexual abuse can request a trial before a church tribunal to clear his name. Coyle has not asked for such a forum, Stahel said.

Although reluctant to discuss any part of an internal meeting between Coyle and his superiors, Stahel indicated that Coyle neither admitted nor denied the Baltimore allegations on the advice of his civil attorney.

Coyle said the same thing in a recorded telephone message left with The Times-Picayune.

Ordinarily, a complaint like Mahoney's would be investigated by an internal review board, which would advise a priest's bishop or religious superior whether it thought the complaint credible. That did not happen in this case, Stahel said, because Coyle already has been barred from ministry and has chosen not to contest that action.

A native of New Orleans, Coyle taught at Jesuit High School in the early 1960s.

Archdiocesan records released two years ago indicate Coyle lived at St. Cecilia Parish in the mid-1980s, worked for a while as chaplain at nearby Holy Cross High School and as a chaplain at Tulane University.

He also worked from 1982 to 1983 as an associate pastor at St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Algiers, and at the Center for Jesus the Lord, a New Orleans spirituality center.

Later Coyle lived on his own and did "personal evangelization," meaning he filled in for vacationing priests, preached at local retreats or missions and apparently filled his time with his own assignments.

 
 

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