Former Priest at St. Mary's Admits Abuse

By Joyce Kelly
ShrewsburyChronicle [Massachusetts]
November 22, 2006

The Rev. Paul Doherty, a former associate pastor who served at St. Mary's Church in Shrewsbury, has admitted to molesting a youth more than 30 years ago, according to a statement issued by Worcester Diocese Bishop Robert J. McManus.

Doherty, 58, served at St. Mary's from June 1999 to Sept. 2000, under Rev. Paul O'Connell, an associate judicial vicar who is now retired and in residence at St. Ann's Church on Rte. 9.

At Doherty's request, he and McManus met last Friday, Nov. 17, at McManus' Worcester residence.

During the meeting, Doherty confided he had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with a minor more than 30 years ago, McManus said.

Doherty did not provide details about the victim's identity or residence, according to Raymond Delisle, spokesman for the Worcester Diocese.

Church officials do not know if there have been other victims, but putting this notice out "may mean someone else may come forward," Delisle said.

Doherty, formerly trained as a musician, was a "late vocation" priest who graduated from Blessed John Seminary in Weston, Delisle said.

He did not become a priest until 1995, years after the admitted molestation, he said.

The church has not defrocked, or "laicized" Doherty at this point, which is "the most serious penalty Rome could inflict," Delisle said.

However, McManus has stripped the priest of his ability to act as a priest.

"Because of the serious nature of this admission, I had to relieve Father of his duties as pastor of the parish and to remove his faculties as a priest," McManus told parishioners at St. Mary's Church in Uxbridge, where Doherty served through last week.

"I truly realize that this kind of news is a shock for you as it has been for me. I ask that you join me in prayer for the parish and school communities, as well as for those who have been hurt in any way by sexual misconduct. And, of course, please keep Fr. Paul in your prayers," McManus announced in masses this weekend.

With a "saddened heart," McManus said he placed Doherty on administrative leave so as to undergo spiritual and psychological treatment.

"The church is taking all the action it can right now: We've removed him from the parish and the premises, and we've made it public immediately...

"Now, if there was anything else, we'll see if someone comes forward," Delisle said.

When asked if the church intends to conduct an investigation to determine whether Doherty has abused others while serving the diocese, Delisle said, "I don't know how we could investigate.

quot;I mean, we're not a police force. The first thing is to see if anyone else comes forward," he said.

Delisle said he does not support the contention of some victims of sexual abuse by priests that St. Mary's in Uxbridge has been a "dumping ground" for accused pedophile priests in the Worcester diocese, as it is the furthest geographical point from the central communities.

In the early 1990s, Mark Barry, of Uxbridge, claimed he was sexually assaulted beginning at age 9 by the Rev. Thomas A. Kane, then a visiting pastor at St. Mary's Church in Uxbridge. In 1996, David Lewcon filed a civil lawsuit against the Worcester diocese and the Rev. Thomas Teczar of Dudley, alleging that he was repeatedly sexually abused by Teczar in 1971 and 1972, when Teczar was assigned to St. Mary's Church in Uxbridge. Rev. Donald J. Reboku, is reported to have sexually abused Bryan A. Smith about a dozen times during the 1970s, according to Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. Among other churches in Worcester Dioceses, Reboku, who died during the 1980s, was assigned to St. Mary's in Uxbridge.

Doherty has never been accused of sexually abusing anyone, according to Delisle, and therefore, there would be no reason to shuffle him around, as prosecutors in other cases have accused the Worcester diocese and Catholic church of doing in the past.

"This was a shock to all of us - nothing's ever come forward in the past about him. We've heard nothing but praise from people who've worked with him," Delisle said.

Doherty's first assignment in the church was to St. Patrick's in Whitinsville in 1995, his second was St. Mary's in Shrewsbury in 1999, and third to St. Mary's in Uxbridge.

"The Catholic Church is often referred to as the family of God. As your bishop, I have a serious pastoral responsibility for the spiritual care and wellbeing of this family. That is why I have come to this parish personally to share this very troubling news. A family rejoices together in good times and also grieves together in times of hurt and sadness. My fervent hope and prayer is that relying on each other's support and on God's grace we will work together as a parish and as a diocese to continue to make St. Mary Parish a strong and vibrant community of faith, hope and love. After the Masses this weekend, I will be here to meet with anyone who wishes to gather in the rectory living room along with Mrs. Frances Nugent, co-director of the Office of Healing and Prevention. I pray that God's all powerful grace may bring you comfort and healing in the weeks and months ahead," McManus told parishioners.

McManus has not personally addressed parishioners at St. Mary's in Shrewsbury, or St. Patrick's in Whitinsville.

The Worcester Diocese has informed District Attorney John Conte and "Rome" of Doherty's admission.

Delisle did not say why Doherty chose to come forward last Friday.


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