Ex-Priest Ousted from Lgbt Program

By Jacqueline Jing
The Wwlp
June 7, 2010

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - An Agawam woman who claims she was the victim of sex abuse by her former parish priest, forced him to be removed from a counseling program that aids parents of gay, lesbian, bi and transgendered children.

The unnamed woman blew the whistle this week on Al Blanchard, who was a former priest at St. John The Evangelist in Agawam in the 1970s. Blanchard resigned before accusations surfaced that he had sexual relations with at least one female teenager.

The Diocese of Springfield acknowledged the allegations two decades later and labeled them "credible". Blanchard agreed not have no contact with anyone under 18 -- but that apparently has not been the case.

According to diocesan spokesman, Mark DuPont, Blanchard had been counseling parents of gay and lesbian children in a group he founded with his wife called "Always our Children." DuPont said the group operated out of Sacred Heart Church in Springfield for several years, though it was not sanctioned by the diocese.

It wasn't until this week, Bishop Timothy McDonnell took action against Blanchard who was running the program. DuPont told 22News, Blanchard was immediately removed from his position.

The Diocese has admitted a "failure" in their zero-tolerance policy. "We clearly missed the ball on this when [the alleged victim] brought it to our attention a year ago", said DuPont, "this is a gap in policy and the way it's applied...and has pointed out a deficiency and will have to be looked at."

It should be noted that Mr. Blanchard never had unsupervised counseling sessions with minors during his tenure at "Always our Children" according to the Diocese and the main purpose of the group was to assist parents.

Past abuse claims against Blanchard were reportedly investigated by DSS in the 1990s but the authorities but never prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired when the victim brought it to the attention.

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