Fall River Priest Abuse Survivor Asks for Compensation

WBSM-AM/AM 1420 [Fairhaven MA]

December 14, 2021

By Kate Robinson

One alleged survivor of child abuse by a Fall River priest is asking for financial compensation from the diocese after he said Catholic leaders ignored his claims for ten years.

On Monday, the Fall River Diocese announced that three priests have been added to the list of those “credibly accused” of sexually abusing minors.

Fathers James Buckley, Edward Byington, and Richard Degagne have been suspended from all church activities. Two of the men were already retired.

Richard Eldridge said Byington abused him after a Catholic retreat when he was 16 years old.

He said that Byington made him confess his sins — despite not being a Catholic — and then brought him to a convent, where he said the nuns tried unsuccessfully to stop the priest from bringing the teenager upstairs.

But according to Eldridge, his story wasn’t deemed “credible” by the diocese until years later, when another victim came forward anonymously.

As for yesterday’s announcement, he said, “I was thrilled,” calling it “a real relief.”

“I don’t want any other kids to end up in this situation, and have to go through what I’ve already gone through,” he said.

Eldridge said he later found out Byington was a leader of a youth group in the Attleboro area.

“I was flabbergasted,” he said, remembering thinking, “these kids are in danger.”

“I just want people to know that Byington is being held accountable,” he added. “And I want some financial recompense from the diocese, because this has really been hell.”

“Let them dig into their pockets and dig into their coffers, and show the abused that they’re really serious about fixing this situation,” he said.

Eldridge’s attorney Mitchell Garabedian stated that the diocese is meeting with several abuse survivors in January to discuss next steps.

“I look forward to hearing what sort of settlement they’re going to come up with,” Eldridge said. “And it better be a good one.”

A spokesperson for the Fall River Diocese could not immediately be reached for comment.