Priest Plans to Take Year's Leave

By Bill Zajac
The Republican
October 15, 2005

SPRINGFIELD - A Springfield priest is leaving the priesthood at least temporarily after struggling for years to deal with alleged sexual assaults occurring when he was a college student by a priest who was supposed to help him cope with his father's death.

The Rev. Paul E. Manship, 45-year-old director of Latino ministry in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, will begin a year's leave of absence at the end of this month.

"I can't say I won't return to the priesthood. My intention is to look at the new possibilities in my life. I remain open to all possibilities," Manship said.

He said he has no specific plans. He will be living in Holyoke.

Manship will be replaced by Andres Lopez, a layman from Holyoke who has been associated with the Latino ministry for 30 years in the diocese, the diocese announced yesterday. Lopez is certified in pastoral ministry by the Northeast Hispanic Catholic Center in collaboration with Catholic University of America.

Lopez will be responsible for implementing the recently released long-range Latino ministry pastoral plan "En Nuestro Hogar" (In Our Home), which reflects a more universal outreach to Latinos across the diocese.

Manship expressed gratitude for the support he has received from diocesan officials and said he leaves his job without anger.

"For me, the process to come to consciousness and deal with this directly is a great story of grace and deep spiritual growth. I am in a place now where I feel secure in my place in the world, my relationship with God and my hope for salvation. I am not going to look back and say this was a waste," Manship said.

Manship said he reported the incidents to the diocese in 2004 and has since confronted his alleged abuser, the Rev. Edward M. Kennedy, who was removed from ministry in 2002 because of previous credible accusations of sexual abuse.

Calls for comment to Kennedy's home were unanswered yesterday. In the past, he has refused comment on allegations against him. In 1994, Kennedy settled for $20,000 a lawsuit accusing him of abusing a minor.

The diocese confirmed Manship went before the Review Board with a credible allegation. Although the diocese's policy is not to comment on Review Board cases, it did so in this case after receiving permission from Manship.

"Certainly Father Manship has been an example of how difficult it is being a victim and carrying that deep pain, but he also represents the possibility of great healing that can take place," diocesan spokesman Mark E. Dupont said.

Manship said the death of his father in 1979 when he was a freshman at the University of Massachusetts preceded the alleged abuse.

"We had an extremely close father-son relationship," Manship said.

The closeness was born out of his parents' strict loving discipline when he became involved with drugs as a freshman in high school, Manship said.

"My parents were forerunners of tough love before that was actually a term," Manship said.

Upon the sudden death of Manship's father, his then-pastor, the Rev. John A. Koonz of St. Agnes Parish of Dalton, introduced Manship to Kennedy.

Manship said Koonz was exceptionally compassionate with his grieving family and thought Kennedy, a Northampton priest, could help Manship while he attended school in nearby Amherst.

Manship said Koonz, who also was removed from ministry in 2002 because of credible accusations of sexual abuse, was sincere in his effort to help him.

For the 18 months after their introduction, Kennedy showered attention on Manship while allegedly making many and frequent sexual "indiscretions" toward him, Manship said.

"He doted on me in a way I was not accustomed - liquor, fine dining," Manship said. The attention included trips to Hawaii and New York.

Manship said he was impressed with Kennedy's "swagger and style and the magic he was performing as a priest."

Kennedy was also involved in Latino ministry, heading the Spanish Apostolate in Springfield at one time.

However, Manship alleges incidents of improper touching by Kennedy, leaving him confused.

He said he entered St. John's College and Seminary in Brighton in 1980 as a means to escape Kennedy as well as to pursue a desired religious vocation.

"In 1979 when I went to see Pope John Paul II in Boston and he said, 'Follow Christ,' I did exactly that. I interpreted that as God telling me to become a priest," Manship said.

After several years of school, taking two years off to pursue other interests and then planning to return to the seminary, Manship said he felt compelled to confront Kennedy.

He called Kennedy and met him at his Southampton home in 1984. Manship said he failed to convey the emotional pain Kennedy caused him. Instead, the meeting resulted in an alleged incident of sexual abuse, according to Manship.

Manship said he returned to Boston via bus thinking suicide would be a welcome relief from the pain and confusion he was experiencing.

He tried to bury the relationship as he returned to school, was ordained in 1988 and began his ministerial career.

Around 1999, the events surrounding Kennedy began resurfacing in Manship's mind, he said.

In 2003, he said he began seeing signs in his own behavior that he needed professional psychiatric help.

"Early in my therapy I realized that ... I had to take responsibility for the rest of my life," Manship said. "If I am going to totally respond to the depth of my call from God, then I have to heal myself. ... I have to admit what my limitations and failings have been."

In February 2004 he told his story to the diocesan Review Board, which, he said, found his allegations credible. By that time, Kennedy had been removed from ministry for a year and a half.

Last month, Manship confronted Kennedy in a meeting moderated by the Rev. Mr. William Toller, a deacon appointed by the diocese to oversee priests removed from ministry for sexual abuse.

"I started by saying I am not here to cast blame or make judgments, I am not looking for anything from you - either an apology or any punitive actions. I am only here for me," Manship said.

Manship told Kennedy that the older priest's behavior has caused him great emotional harm. He declined to characterize Kennedy's response.

Manship expressed gratitude that Toller arranged the meeting and Kennedy attended.

"I felt a 21-year gap in my life had been reconnected. I finished the conversation that I started with him 21 years earlier," Manship said.

Facing the past has been healing, he said.

"There is a quote in Martin Moran's book 'The Tricky Part' that goes something like: 'Is it possible that which harms us is also that which saves us?'" Manship said. "I see what happened to me as a moment in grace."

He looks forward to life outside the structure of clerical life.

"I am on a journey of rediscovering what my life is. Everything that happened to me is a part of my life. I'm excited about the possibilities," Manship said.

In his 17 years as a priest, Manship has worked at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Springfield, Sacred Heart in Holyoke, Latino ministry in Hampshire and Berkshire counties, and Holy Family Parish in Springfield. In the past year, he has worked out of the reopened St. Francis Chapel in downtown Springfield. He has been living for several years at St. Mary's Parish in Westfield


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