The Diocese of Fall River announced Sunday that it had suspended a retired priest after a review of his files revealed allegations that he had sexually abused a minor about 20 years ago.
Father Herbert T. Nichols, who has worked in several parishes around Bristol and Barnstable counties since he was ordained in 1975, denies the allegation, according to a statement from the Diocese.
Nichols retired in 2015 but has continued to participate in Masses around the area and within the Diocese’ Maronite community. His suspension precludes him from all ministry until the investigation is complete, the statement said.
Last year, the Diocese hired an independent consultant to review personnel files, officials said. Since last March, the diocese has suspended or removed at least five priests for alleged abuse or misconduct, including two retired priests earlier this month.
“The task of evaluating all of the files and the response needed on our part as a result of the findings have, regretfully, taken more time than first thought,” said Bishop Edgar da Cunha. “It is crucial that we take the time and perform the diligence necessary to compile a list that is accurate and complete, and we continue to do so.”
The Diocese has hired a social worker to reach out to victims of abuse, the statement said.
“I understand that these recent announcements regarding the suspensions of priests are upsetting to our diocesan community of faith and often bring renewed pain to victims of sexual abuse especially victims of sexual abuse by clergy,” da Cunha said. “I continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who have suffered greatly.”