Fall River Diocese suspends retired priest accused of sex abuse
By Jacqui Gomersall
WPRI FM (NPR affiliate)
January 26, 2020
A retired Catholic priest has been suspended from the Fall River Diocese following allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.
Father Herbert T. Nichols denies the allegation, which is alleged to have occurred twenty years ago, according to the Diocese of Fall River.
We’re told, the allegation remains under investigation by the diocese and Nichols is suspended from all ministry until a determination on the matter is made.
The diocese said Nichols was not currently assigned to any parish but did help with the celebration of Masses in various parishes since his retirement, including in the Maronite community.
“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,” Bishop da Cunha said. “I continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who have suffered greatly.”
Nichols was ordained in 1975 and was assigned to the following parishes: St. Ann Parish, Raynham; St. Joseph Parish, Taunton; St. Mary Parish, Taunton; St. Anne Parish, Fall River; St. Joan of Arc Parish, Orleans; St. Anne Parish, Fall River; St. James Parish, New Bedford; Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, New Bedford; St. Anthony of Padua Parish, New Bedford; St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River; retirement 2015. Father Nichols also served in ministry in New York as a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal community.
Nichols is the fifth priest in recent months to be named by the Fall River Diocese in an investigation involving allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct.
Earlier this month, two retired priests identified as Father James F. Buckley and Father Edward J. Byington were suspended from ministry due to separate allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. Both deny the allegations against them.
That announcement followed two other Fall River priests who were put on administrative leave in November due to accusations of misconduct. Both Father Richard Degagne and Father Daniel Lacroix denied those allegations as well.
The Diocese has not yet released its list of credibly accused priests, which Bishop da Cunha said in a letter to parishioners last January would be complete by spring of last year.
Following this latest announcement, Bishop da Cunha said “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.” He added “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.”
Currently, there are 34 publicly accused priests from the Fall River diocese listed on Bishop-Accountability.org, a website that tracks the Catholic abuse crisis nationwide using legal documents, depositions and media reports.
Three of the clergymen listed have been convicted and two others have settled past claims in court, according to the website.
Anyone with information or concerns regarding any past or present member of the Diocese is urged to contact the district attorneys for Bristol County or the Cape and Islands.