Parishioners Shocked by Allegation of Priest Misconduct
By Peter Reuell
Milford Daily News
November 29, 2006
Hudson -- Parishioners at St. Michael Church yesterday called the Rev. Steven Poitras a "personable, dedicated" priest, and expressed shock and anger at a recently revealed allegation of sexual misconduct.
In a statement released Monday, the Archdiocese of Boston said Poitras had been suspended from his post as the second-ranking priest at the Manning Street church after being accused of sexual abuse of a minor.
According to the statement, the alleged abuse took place in 1994, when Poitras was assigned to a church in North Andover.
After receiving the allegation, archdiocese officials notified the state attorney general's office and the Essex County district attorney, and launched a preliminary investigation.
Parishioners, however, yesterday seemed reluctant to believe the allegations.
"He's a very nice person," Antonio Goncalves said outside the church. "It was very pleasant to have Mass with him."
The abuse allegation, "was a shock," he said. "We loved him. He was a very good person to be with."
Inside the church, two other parishioners, who asked that their names not be used, echoed Goncalves' comments.
"He is a wonderful, wonderful man," one woman said, as she decorated a Christmas tree near the church's altar. "He was a very decent person, and he loved being a priest."
Parishioners were told of Poitras' suspension last weekend, and the scene was an emotional one.
"We were shocked," said the woman who asked not to be identified. "People were crying. Everybody was just in a state of shock."
"He was funny, very personable, outgoing," said one man, who also did not want to be named. "Just a nice, nice man. We haven't talked to anybody that wasn't in an absolute state of shock."
While on suspension, Poitras is not allowed to minister publicly, and is not allowed to live at the parish rectory, archdiocese spokesman Kelly Lynch said yesterday.
Church officials, however, emphasized the allegations against Poitras are just that -- allegations.
"The decision to place Father Poitras on administrative leave does not represent a determination of his guilt or innocence as it pertains to this allegation," the statement reads.
Though Lynch refused to give any further details on the allegation, she did say the alleged abuse "did not occur at the parish to which Father Poitras was assigned in 1994."
Officials from both the attorney general's office and the Essex County district attorney's office refused to confirm whether they are investigating the allegation.
Dorothy Kennedy, president of the Boston area Council of Voice of the Faithful, a group founded in the wake of the clergy sex abuse scandal, called the archdiocese's decision to go public with the allegation correct.
"I think they've done the right thing in publishing it, yes," she said. "We are interested in seeing justice for the victims of sexual abuse. The reason we want to see a credible allegation made public is because there may be other victims out there."
Kennedy, however, was quick to add that the organization wants to see due process for priests who are accused.
"One of our concerns is about priests who have been accused who are in limbo," she said. "We've heard there are many priests that have been accused and we don't know the status of the investigations.
"Transparency is a real concern of ours because it's through transparency that justice prevails."
(Peter Reuell can be reached at 508-626-4428, or at email@example.com.)
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