Abington Priest Leaves Suddenly

By Don Conkey
Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA)
February 20, 2002

ABINGTON — The pastor of St. Nicholas Church has left the parish and reportedly faces allegations of child abuse.

The Rev. Joseph L. Welsh, pastor of St. Nicholas since 1997, moved out of the parish rectory today, a fellow priest said.

The Rev. Robert Costello said Rev. Welsh has been called to a meeting this afternoon at the Chancery, the administrative arm of the Archdiocese of Boston.

"He is gone for good. That is definite," the Rev. Costello said. "He packed his bags last night.

"He told me yesterday morning that he had been called into the Chancery. Then he told me when I came in after supper that I would have to say Mass this morning."

This morning, the pastor was gone, Costello said.

"I thought I would say goodbye to him," Costello said. "It all happened so fast that we are stunned here."

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said today that a priest was being investigated, but would not confirm that it was the Rev. Welsh or that he has been called to the Chancery.

"Recently it would appear that credible allegations have been made against a priest in the archdiocese," said the spokeswoman, Donna M. Morrissey.

"If these allegations are substantiated, then the priest will be removed immediately from any and all archdiocesan assignments."

Neither Morrissey nor the Rev. Costello would confirm a report in today's Boston Globe that the Rev. Welsh has been accused of molesting three brothers for two decades while posing as a close friend of their family. Two of the boys cited incidents in which they were molested at a cottage the Rev. Welsh's family owned on a pond in Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth, the Globe reported. according to a published report.

The issue of child sex abuse and the church's handling of the issue is expected to come up today when Cardinal Bernard Law meets with South Shore priests at St. Mary's Church in Hanover.

The cardinal has admitted making mistakes in allowing priests accused of molesting children to continue working in parishes. He has said he has no intention of resigning.

In a growing sex abuse scandal, the Boston Archdiocese has given prosecutors in five counties the names of 80 priests suspended amid allegations that they molested children. The

disclosures followed the conviction last month of defrocked priest John Geoghan of Scituate on charges of molesting a young boy.

The Norfolk County District Attorney's office is seeking information on 18 current or former priests. The Plymouth County District Attorney's office has received the names of eight clergymen from the archdiocese.

On Feb. 7, the archdiocese announced that six more priests had been suspended as a result of child abuse allegations. Three had South Shore connections, including the former pastor of St. Bridget's Church in Abington, the Rev. Gerald J. Hickey of Scituate.

The Rev. Hickey, 64, left the Abington parish in the mid-1990s with no notice or explanation. For the past six years, he had assisted at St. Helen's Church in Norwell. He has not responded to repeated attempts to reach him for comment.

Suspended at the same time as the Rev. Hickey were the Rev. David C. Murphy, 65, a Milton native serving as chaplain at Caritas Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton and Brockton Hospital, and the Rev. Thomas P. Forry, 60, who served in parishes in Scituate, Kingston and Weymouth before becoming an Army chaplain.

On Feb. 2, the archdiocese suspended the Rev. Paul Finegan, pastor of St. Bernadette's Church in Randolph and the Rev. Daniel Graham, pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Quincy Point, former associate pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Quincy and former assistant pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary in Stoughton.


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