Five Priests with North Andover Ties on Archdiocese Sexual Abuse List

By Bryan McGonigle
The Patch
September 2, 2011

Five priests with ties to North Andover were accused of sexually abusing children, according to a list published by the Boston Archdiocese.

The extensive list includes 159 names -- priests who were accused of sexual abuse, not just one who were convicted, and it categorizes the priests according to case status and action taken.

This is the first time the Catholic Church has released the information.

The five cases with ties to North Andover all involve priests who served at St. Michael Parish at one time in their career. The cases include two cases in which the priest has since died, two in which the priest was defrocked and one still listed as an open case with the priest on administrative leave.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley explained in a letter that he chose to withhold the names of certain priests, however, particularly ones that were never publicly charged while they were alive.

Out of 248 priests and two deacons accused of child sex abuse since 1950, 91 names were not released. That group includes deceased priests who weren't publicly accused, priests working in Boston under religious orders or other dioceses and those named in unsubstantiated accusations that didn't go public.

The list of priests identified with North Andover ties is as follows, in chronological order of the year they were ordained.

JamesC. Shaughnessey was ordained in 1937 and is listed among publicly accused priests who are now deceased and for whom criminal or Canonical proceedings were not completed. Shaughnessey served in several parishes in Massachusetts including St. James Parish in Haverhill before serving for 10 years at St. Michael Parish in North Andover, from where he retired in 1977. Shaughnessey passed away in 1989 and is included in a list of accused priests by attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who gained notoriety in 2002 when he sued the Archdioces on behalf of alleged sexual abuse victims.

JamesT. McDonald was ordained in 1953 and is also listed among publicly accused priests who are now deceased and for whom criminal or Canonical proceedings were not completed. McDonald started his service as a priest in North Andover, serving at St. Michael Parish from 1953 to 1959. He later served in various locations including Peabody, Waltham and Peru before retiring in 1996 amid allegations against him including those from several girls who said he had sexually abused them over a span of three decades from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s. McDonald, who admitted to abusing five of the girls, died in 1999.

BenjaminJ. McMahon Jr. was ordained in 1968 and is listed among publicly accused priests who have been removed from the clergy. McMahon served at St. Michael Parish from 1983 to 1985. He then transferred to a church in Winchester in 1985 and reportedly went on leave of absence in 1986 after a 1985 Cape Cod arrest involving alleged sexual acts with another man. He later returned to the priesthood, in Marlboro, and complaints of child sexual abuse surfaced. Due to statute of limitations, criminal charges were not pursued but he was stripped of Archdiocese duties and responsibilities in 2003 and Laicized -- or officially defrocked -- in 2010.

PaulJ. Finegan was ordained in 1970 and is also listed among publicly accused priests who have been removed from the clergy. Finegan served as a parochial vicar at St. Michael Parish early in his career, from 1985 to 1987. Finegan was accused of abusing two girls in 1980 and again in 1989, and he was removed from duty in 2002 after accusations of having sexually abused young boys. He was officially defrocked in 2006. Finegan was the subject of a lawsuit in 2002 by a woman who alleged that Finegan had abused her when she was a child in the early 1980s. The suit also named a chancery official who had allegedly neglected to act on early abuse complaints against Finegan.

StevenW. Poitras was ordained in 1993 and is listed among priests publicly accused for whom Canonical proceedings have not yet been completed. Poitras started his service at St. Michael Parish and served as a parochial vicar there from 1993 to 1995. He served in a few other locations before being placed on leave in 2006 when he was accused of having sexually abused a minor in 1994, during which time he was serving at St. Michael Parish.


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