Former Springfield Priest Faces Abuse Allegations

Associated Press State & Local Wire
May 6, 2004

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield is investigating a sexual misconduct allegation against a former priest dating to the late 1960s.

The diocese recently received a complaint that the Rev. John R. Russell was involved in some sort of sexual misconduct with a minor while assigned to Holy Cross Parish in Springfield, about 90 miles west of Boston, between 1966 and 1970.

The diocese, citing confidentiality laws, would not provide the sex or age of the alleged victim, but a source familiar with the case who wished to remain anonymous said the person was a minor and a member of the parish at the time of the incident. The alleged victim no longer lives in the area, the source said.

Russell, 62, left the Catholic church in early 1970s to join the Episcopal priesthood, and is now retired and living in Albuquerque, N.M.

Russell could not immediately be reached for comment. A man who answered the only listing in the Albuquerque area for John R. Russell said he wasn't a priest and declined to comment.

After hearing the complaint, the diocesan sexual misconduct review board recommended to Bishop Timothy McDonnell "that the case merited further investigation and that the Episcopal diocese should be advised of the situation."

Information about the case has been forwarded to the district attorney and the Episcopal Diocese of Rio Grande in New Mexico.

A call to Hampden District Attorney William Bennett was not immediately returned.

The Episcopal church in New Mexico said it received notice about the allegation against Russell on May 3 and will cooperate fully with any church or civil investigations.

Russell came to New Mexico in the early 1970s to study at the University of New Mexico and became an Episcopal priest in 1976, the diocese said.

He worked mostly part-time and his active ministry ended July 1, 2001. He no longer is licensed to function as a priest, which is common once a priest retired, the diocese said.


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