2 Fall River retired priests suspended over sex abuse allegations

January 19, 2020

[with video]

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River announced Sunday it has suspended two retired priests after sexual abuse allegations were made against them.

The separate, unrelated accusations against the Rev. Edward J. Byington and the Rev. James F. Buckley are said to have happened decades ago and are under investigation by law enforcement.

Both priests have denied the allegations. The suspension from ministry is required by diocesan policies, the Diocese of Fall River said in a statement.

Both priests are retired and are not assigned to a parish, the statement said. However, both have assisted with the celebration of Masses in various parishes since their retirements.

Buckley was ordained in 1959. His assignments included: St. Mary’s Cathedral, Fall River; Sacred Heart Parish, Fall River; Immaculate Conception Parish, North Easton; St. Joan of Arc Parish, Orleans; St. Augustine Parish, Vineyard Haven; St. Margaret Parish, Buzzards Bay; and Holy Redeemer Parish, Chatham. He retired in 2001.

Byington was ordained 1970. His assignments included: St. John the Evangelist Parish, Attleboro; Sacred Heart Parish, Fall River; Sacred Heart Parish, Taunton; St. Patrick Parish, Fall River; St. Paul Parish, Taunton; St. George Parish, Westport; Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Seekonk; Sacred Heart Parish, Fall River; St. Francis of Xavier Parish, Hyannis; and St. Thomas More Parish, Somerset. He retired in 2006.

Byington also taught German classes at St. Joseph’s School in West Warwick, the diocese said.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence released a statement, noting that Byington has been removed from any further participation or duties within the diocese.

"At this time, there are no known allegations against him in the Diocese of Providence," the statement reads.

The Providence Diocese also said Byington has assisted at Masses in area parishes, including St. Augustine in Providence, where he was in residence until 2015, St. Joan of Arc in Cumberland, and St. Joseph in West Warwick, where he also taught-part-time at the parish school. He was never a priest in the Diocese of Providence.

"Nothing is more important than the welfare of all members of our diocesan community, especially anyone who has been harmed or impacted by abuse in any way," said Fall River Bishop Edgar da Cunha. "The Diocese of Fall River remains committed to resolving these matters in as fair and as transparent a process as possible and to ensuring the safety of all youth and vulnerable adults."

Anyone with information regarding the conduct of any past or present member of the Fall River Diocese, is encouraged to contact Carolyn Shipp, the diocese’s victim assistance coordinator, at 508-985-6508.

The Diocese of Providence urges anyone who has been the victim of sexual abuse, or with credible knowledge of such abuse, by any member of the church to report the information to the Rhode Island State Police Major Crimes Unit 401-444-1000 or the diocesan Office of Compliance at 401-941-0760.

On Jan. 3, Bishop da Cunha wrote a letter regarding his plan to release a list of clergy facing ‘credible allegation of abuse of a minor’ has been made.


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