Former Parishes React to Watertown Priest Accused of Sexual Assault

By Fred Hanson and Meghann Ackerman
Watertown Tab & Press
August 31, 2009

The Rev. Frederick Barr, who most recently served at St. Patrick Church in Watertown, has been placed on administrative leave while the Boston Archdiocese investigates allegation of child sexual assault.

WATERTOWN — The Boston archdiocese has placed a Watertown priest, who served in several other area parishes, on administrative leave after an allegation surfaced that he sexually abused a child decades ago.

The allegation against the Rev. Frederick Barr “concerns conduct alleged to have taken place approximately 20 years ago,” the archdiocese said in a statement issued Sunday. The Rev. Barr, a Beverly native, was most recently pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Watertown, where he had been the priest since 2008. Prior to coming to Watertown, Barr was an interim priest at St. John the Evangelist School in Canton. He was the pastor of Mary, Star of the Sea Church in the Squantum section of Quincy when the archdiocese closed it in 2004.

The Archdiocese of Boston will not identify the community in which the allegation was made.

“I am not able to disclose the location of the alleged abuse,” Kelly Lynch, a spokes person for the archdiocese said in an e-mail. “We typically do not provide details about an allegation out of respect for the privacy of the person who came forward and to protect the integrity of investigation.”

John Beagan, a Watertown resident who has been going to St.Patrick’s for five years, said news of the allegation was surprising.

“Everybody would have to be shocked. Nobody would have had an inkling that something like this was coming down,” he said. “I met with his Tuesday morning and there wasn’t an inkling or a sign that there were any problems.”

When Barr came to St. Patrick’s in the spring of 2008, Beagan said he hit the ground running.

“He came in kind of like a whirlwind. He’s highly motivated,” Beagan said.

Beagan described Barr as someone who is passionate about Catholicism.

“He’s deeply passionate about his faith. He’s a natural at understanding the faith,” he said.

The co-chairmen of the Friends of the Star of the Sea Church in Quincy issued a statement Sunday night, which said their reaction to the allegation against their former pastor was one of “tremendous shock and dismay.”

Sean Glennon and Maureen Mazrimas, the co-chairmen of the group, said the only information they have on the allegations comes from the news media.

“We have no further comment regarding this allegation except to say that given the timeframe in question, we have no reason to believe that any such alleged conduct on the part of Father Fred was committed during his assignment at our beloved Mary, Star of the Sea Parish,” Glennon and Mazrimas said in the statement.

In the early 1980s, the Rev. Barr was associate pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Church on Sea Street, which is now part of Holy Trinity Parish. He left Quincy in 1985 for an assignment at St. Luke’s Church in Belmont. Barr was ordained as a deacon in 1975 after attending St. John’s School of Theology-Seminary.

“The Archdiocese has notified law enforcement of the allegation and has initiated a preliminary investigation into the complaint. Father Barr will remain on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation,” the statement read.

The archdiocese is offering counseling and other services to survivors, their families and the parishes affected by clergy sexual abuse through its Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach, the statement said.

The Boston Area Council of Voice of the Faithful released a statement Tuesday commending the archdiocese for taking action and offering a “listening session” to Watertown parishioners, but said more was needed.

“Common sense dictates that the RCAB (Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bsoton) outreach to both of these parishes,” said Anne Southwood, BACVOTF chair in the statement.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley “offered his prayers and support for all persons affected by this matter, including parishioners of St. Patrick’s parish, during this difficult time,” the statement said.

A phone message left for the Rev. Barr at St. Patrick’s in Watertown was not returned Sunday.

When asked about sexual abuse scandals in the church in a 2008 interview wit the TAB, Barr said the church was moving forward.

“It has turned a corner. It’s about hope. It’s a sense of the future. We are moving on,” he said.


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