Priest Accused of Abuse Retires

Associated Press
June 2, 2003

MERRIMACK, N.H. - A Catholic priest who was put on leave last year after police started investigating an allegation of sexual misconduct at a prior assignment has retired.

The Rev. Edward Richard had served St. Patrick Church in Pelham since 1988. Among the Diocese of Manchester's new clergy assignments made public Monday was the announcement of Richard's retirement, who officially resigned as pastor. Bishop John McCormack accepted the request.

Richard still remains under investigation on allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor in the 1980s. He has not been charged with any crime.

The investigation remains open, Hillsborough County Attorney John Coughlin said, declining to comment on any case specifics.

One accuser said that the priest molested him while at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Merrimack.

Two months after the diocese removed Richard from ministry, two men sued the diocese, claiming church officials allowed the priest to have unsupervised contact with the minors when it "knew or should have known" he had a "propensity for engaging in sexual contact with minors."

Their attorney, Mark Abramson, settled a $6.5 million lawsuit with the diocese on behalf of 61 clients last month, but it was not known if the two men were among those cases.

Richard was transferred to the Pelham church in 1988 after serving for 15 years in Merrimack, where he first was an assistant pastor at Our Lady of Mercy, and then founding pastor of St. John Neumann Church in 1982.

He also served as chaplain to the Merrimack Police and Fire Departments and Merrimack Ambulance Rescue Service, taught an eighth-grade religion class at Nashua Catholic Regional Junior High School and ran a youth group at St. John Neumann.

In other assignments, the diocese assigned a new pastor to St. John Neumann Church in Merrimack, to replace the man suspected of stealing money from the church's Christmas Eve collection box.

The Rev. Agapit Jean Jr., who has been the pastor at St. James Parish in Portsmouth, has been assigned to St. John Neumann, effective June 25. He replaces the Rev. Steven Kucharski.

Coughlin, whose office is handling the investigation into the theft, said it is "complicated" but he hopes it will be wrapped up within a month. Kucharski has not been charged.

Kucharski resigned Jan. 8 after he became the target of a police investigation into the Christmas Eve theft of collection money. More than 1,000 people attended Mass on Christmas Eve at the church, contributing to the church's largest collection of the year.

Shortly after resigning, Kucharski wrote a letter to parishioners in which he apologized for "taking and using parish money without following a far more appropriate and legitimate channel."

"I would ask that parishioners and the public be patient," Coughlin said. "There's a process we need to go through."


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