Local priests deny sexual abuse allegations

By Jessica Valeriani
Andover Townsman
April 15, 2019

The Rev. William Waters, former pastor of several Merrimack Valley parishes, has denied allegations of the sexual abuse of a minor 30 years ago.

Courtesy file photoThe Rev. Peter Gori

Two priests who served at the former St. Augustine’s in Lawrence say allegations of the sexual abuse of a boy decades ago are false.

The Rev. Peter Gori, currently pastor of St. Augustine’s Church in Andover, and the Rev. William Waters, who served as pastor at several Merrimack Valley parishes and is now a pastor in Philadelphia, have both been accused by a man in his 40s of sexual abuse some 30 years ago.

Both priests have been placed on leave pending the outcome of investigations.

The alleged victim says Waters abused him from 1987 to 1990 when he was eight to 10 years old, according to attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who is known for representing sexual abuse victims in the Boston area during the Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal. The man says Gori sexually abused him repeatedly in the 1990s when he was 10 years old, according to Garabedian.

Terrence Donilon, secretary for communications and public affairs at the Archdiocese of Boston, said the abuse is alleged to have happened at St. Augustine’s in Lawrence. At the time, the victim attended St. Augustine’s School in Lawrence, according to Garabedian.

Gori denied the allegations in a letter sent to St. Augustine’s parishioners Tuesday.

In the letter, Gori writes he was informed of the allegation by the provincial of his Augustinian order last Friday.

“I assure you, as I assured the Provincial, that the accusation is false,” Gori wrote.

Gori goes on to tell parishioners he will not be living in the rectory nor conducting Mass while the investigation is underway.

Waters has also denied the allegation against him, according to a written statement from Kenneth Gavin, chief communications officer at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Waters has “voluntarily stepped aside as pastor” pending the outcome of the matter, according to the statement from Gavin. He was placed on administrative leave in his role as pastor at St. Augustine’s in Philadelphia, and the archdiocese has restricted his faculties to function as a priest, pending the outcome of the matter, the statement said.

While on administrative leave, the statement said Waters will not be able to function publicly as a priest and will have no access to parish or school facilities.

Gavin said in the statement the Augustinians received an allegation through a third party that “Waters sexually abused a minor approximately 30 years ago while serving as a priest outside the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.”

“Archdiocesan administration had no knowledge of this allegation until it was shared by the Augustinians,” the statement read. “No allegations of this kind have been lodged against Father Waters previously.”

The statement said the Augustinians reported the allegation to law enforcement.

According to Gavin’s statement, Waters completed mandatory Safe Environment Training programs and obtained appropriate child abuse clearances and criminal background checks, which are standard measures in parishes, schools and ministries throughout the archdiocese.

Waters has served as the pastor at St. Augustine’s in Philadelphia since August 2014. He was previously assigned to St. Augustine’s in Lawrence.

Waters was also previously pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Methuen, St. Mary-Immaculate Conception in Lawrence and a campus minister at Merrimack College before leaving the area in 2014 to return to his native Philadelphia.

An article from The Boston Globe dating back to November 2011 said Gori referred to a proposal by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley to release a list of priests accused of sexual abuse as an “electronic wall of shame” at an advisory group meeting in March 2009.

Gori was part of O’Malley’s Presbyteral Council, an advisory group of clergy.

“The ramification to priest morale hangs in the balance,” said Gori, according to the article.

The idea by O’Malley, originally announced in 2009, and published in 2011, included 159 clergy members publicly accused of abusing minors. The list was limited to priests originally from the Boston archdiocese, that were directly under its supervision.

Garabedian told The Andover Townsman the alleged victim, who is now 40 years old and lives in Massachusetts, first came forward to him in late 2017 because of Garabedian’s reputation handling these types of cases. The victim made his second call to Garabedian in mid-2018.

The alleged victim was not further identified by Garabedian, and the town he resides in was also not provided.



Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.