Rev. Suspended in Abuse Claim

By Eric Convey
Boston Herald
February 1, 2004

A popular North Shore priest has been removed from parish work pending the outcome of a church investigation into allegations he sexually molested a minor decades ago.

The Rev. William M. Walsh had been named in a complaint in the 1970s and again around 2001. But a panel that reviewed his file in the early 1990s and again in 2003 left him in parish work because the accusations were anonymous and no victims were named, according to church records made public as part of civil litigation against the archdiocese.

Walsh was suspended because an accuser recently attached his name to allegations dating to the same time period, said the Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese.

Whether the allegations are new was unclear yesterday. Church officials did not disclose the substance of the complaint.

Although no lawsuit has been filed, a source said Walsh has obtained counsel.

News of Walsh's suspension stunned St. Mary of the Annunciation in Danvers - a bustling downtown parish with a stone church building and a school.

"I am sure that you, like me, are in enormous shock and pain," the Rev. Gerard L. Dorgan said after announcing the decision at yesterday's 4 p.m. Mass.

Breaking the news was "a very difficult task," Dorgan said in halting words to the hushed congregation. "I don't have much choice."

Dorgan, pastor of the church and Walsh's former teacher, said he'd brought the same news to the faithful at the 9 a.m. Mass.

"People are just devastated, as we all are," he said.

Dorgan said Walsh, who was ordained in 1971, is extremely bright and well-read and is gifted in his work with students.

Another colleague said Walsh is known for his interest in social justice issues and has a special place in his heart for the downtrodden.

Walsh could not be reached yesterday. But a church personnel record indicates that an official who confronted him with the allegation in 2003 wrote that he "denies any misconduct."

Roland Beaulieu, a parishioner at St. Mary, described Walsh as "a nice priest - very energetic, very good to the children."

Beaulieu said he and other parishioners already are praying for Walsh.

"I'm not sure what happened," he said.


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