Former St. Michael Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse

By Drake Lucas
November 29, 2006

North Andover - The Rev. Steve Poitras was perhaps best remembered in town for faking that he had cancer while he was an assistant priest at St. Michael Church in 1994.

This week, he was also accused of sexual abuse of a minor during the same time. Poitras left St. Michael Church in early 1995.

The Very Rev. John Delaney, vicar of the Lawrence area Catholic churches who came to St. Michael Church in 2000, said the allegation did not come from a parishioner of St. Michael Church and the abuse was not alleged to have happened at a church event. No other information about the victim was available.

Poitras was placed on leave from his current position as parochial vicar at St. Michael's parish in Hudson, and the archdiocese is investigating the allegation.

The Essex County district attorney is also aware of the allegation but would not confirm or deny there is an investigation. North Andover police are not investigating any allegations.

Bernice Subach, a parishioner at St. Michael Church who also attended when Poitras was there, said she does not believe the allegation against him. She said he was a great person, even after Poitras told the parish he had lied about having cancer.

"I liked him very much, he was sociable with everybody," she said.

Poitras was born in Lowell and attended St. Patrick parish, where he led the youth group and coached basketball.

In 1993 at age 27, Poitras came to St. Michael Church in North Andover from Sacred Hearts Parish in Bradford.

After a year and a half at the church, he announced to the parish in December 1994 that he had been receiving treatment for stomach cancer for months, including hours of radiation treatment.

He also lost weight and his hair was noticeably thinner.

"There have been times when I've let out a few screams driving on Route 93 and 133 back from Boston after treatments on my way to the rectory," he told the congregation at the time.

Four months later, Cardinal Bernard Law placed him on sick leave after a psychological assessment when Poitras revealed he had staged the cancer. He did not return to St. Michael Church.

Delaney said the church will put a message in the bulletin this weekend to let parishioners know they are aware of the allegation and that pastors are available for anyone who needs support.

This is not the first time a priest at the church has been accused of sexual abuse. Delaney said a priest in the 1970s was also accused.

"I'm always saddened these situations continue to develop," Delaney said. "The well-being of children is first and foremost in all church work. It's upsetting when we hear these stories."


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