Local priests deny sexual abuse allegations

Andover Townsman

April 15, 2019

By Jessica Valeriani

Two priests who served at the former St. Augustine’s in Lawrence say allegations of the sexual abuse of a boy decades ago are false.

The Rev. Peter Gori, currently pastor of St. Augustine’s Church in Andover, and the Rev. William Waters, who served as pastor at several Merrimack Valley parishes and is now a pastor in Philadelphia, have both been accused by a man in his 40s of sexual abuse some 30 years ago.

Both priests have been placed on leave pending the outcome of investigations.

The alleged victim says Waters abused him from 1987 to 1990 when he was eight to 10 years old, according to attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who is known for representing sexual abuse victims in the Boston area during the Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal. The man says Gori sexually abused him repeatedly in the 1990s when he was 10 years old, according to Garabedian.

Terrence Donilon, secretary for communications and public affairs at the Archdiocese of Boston, said the abuse is alleged to have happened at St. Augustine’s in Lawrence. At the time, the victim attended St. Augustine’s School in Lawrence, according to Garabedian.

Gori denied the allegations in a letter sent to St. Augustine’s parishioners Tuesday.

In the letter, Gori writes he was informed of the allegation by the provincial of his Augustinian order last Friday.

“I assure you, as I assured the Provincial, that the accusation is false,” Gori wrote.

Gori goes on to tell parishioners he will not be living in the rectory nor conducting Mass while the investigation is underway.

Waters has also denied the allegation against him, according to a written statement from Kenneth Gavin, chief communications officer at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Waters has “voluntarily stepped aside as pastor” pending the outcome of the matter, according to the statement from Gavin. He was placed on administrative leave in his role as pastor at St. Augustine’s in Philadelphia, and the archdiocese has restricted his faculties to function as a priest, pending the outcome of the matter, the statement said.

While on administrative leave, the statement said Waters will not be able to function publicly as a priest and will have no access to parish or school facilities.

Gavin said in the statement the Augustinians received an allegation through a third party that “Waters sexually abused a minor approximately 30 years ago while serving as a priest outside the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.”

“Archdiocesan administration had no knowledge of this allegation until it was shared by the Augustinians,” the statement read. “No allegations of this kind have been lodged against Father Waters previously.”

The statement said the Augustinians reported the allegation to law enforcement.

According to Gavin’s statement, Waters completed mandatory Safe Environment Training programs and obtained appropriate child abuse clearances and criminal background checks, which are standard measures in parishes, schools and ministries throughout the archdiocese.

Waters has served as the pastor at St. Augustine’s in Philadelphia since August 2014. He was previously assigned to St. Augustine’s in Lawrence.

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