Second Augustinian Priest Cleared of Abuse Claim
By Paul Tennant
Lawrence Eagle Tribune
April 2, 2020
LAWRENCE — The Rev. William Waters, OSA, has been exonerated of an allegation of abuse, according to a statement from the leader of Augustinian priests in the eastern United States.
The Rev. Peter Gori, OSA, who is also a member of the Order of St. Augustine, was exonerated and returned to ministry earlier this week. Cardinal Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston, announced Gori has returned as pastor of St. Augustine Church in Andover.
Waters and Gori were placed on leave last April after a man now in his 40s accused both priests of sexually abusing him in the 1980s. Both the Archdiocese of Boston and the Order of St. Augustine said the accusation against Gori was thoroughly investigated and determined to be unsubstantiated.
Waters served as pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Lawrence and Methuen for many years before being transferred to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia a few years ago.
"I am overjoyed to announced that Father Peter and Father Waters have been totally exonerated and restored to full ministry," the Rev. Michael DiGregorio, OSA, prior provincial of the Province of St. Thomas of Villanova, wrote in a letter to the parishioners of Our Lady of Good Counsel.
The Augustinian order hired an independent firm to investigate the allegations against both priests and concluded there was "no evidence of any kind to support the allegations of sexual abuse," according to DiGregorio.
Both O'Malley and the Most Rev. Nelson Perez, archbishop of Philadelphia, accepted the Augustinian order's recommendation that Gori and Waters resume serving as pastors of their respective parishes.
Several people interviewed by The Eagle-Tribune said they were pleased with the reinstatement of Gori and Waters – and did not believe the accusations against them.
"Terrific," is how Edward "Hoppy" Curran, retired veterans' services director for Methuen, greeted the news. Curran has known Waters for more than 40 years and said he has often traveled with him.
"It's unfortunate he had to go through this," Curran said, noting Waters was on leave for a year while the investigation was conducted. His friend was the victim of a "false accusation," he said.
"A lot of people were praying for him," Curran said.
"Both of them are gentlemen," Thomas Gradzewicz of Methuen said of Waters and Gori. Gradzewicz and his wife Fran are longtime parishioners of Our Lady of Good Counsel, which was established by the consolidation of St. Augustine Church, 128 Ames St., Lawrence and St. Theresa Church, 22 Plymouth St., Methuen.
"I didn't believe the stories," Fran Landry of Salem, New Hampshire said. Landry is a former parishioner of Our Lady of Good Counsel. "I felt really bad," she said, when the accusations were made public and both priests were placed on leave.
"They are both excellent priests," she said.
"We are happy to have Father Peter back. It’s been a year and a long one for him," said Katie Scanlon LeBlanc, youth minister at St. Augustine Church in Andover.