Episcopal priest admits to abuse in Skaneateles
A former Skaneateles Episcopal priest who ran for state Assembly lastyear has admitted sexually abusing four adolescent boys while servingas rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Skaneateles from January1986 to May 1993.
J. Edward Putnam, 66, was suspended fromacting as a priest for 20 years after a diocesan investigation, saidthe Rev. Karen C. Lewis, assistant to Bishop Gladstone "Skip" Adams.
Putnamsigned a document last month that outlines the accusations and thechurch discipline, Lewis said. In a written statement to the bishop,Putnam said he engaged in "inappropriate conduct with minors" while atSt. James, she said.
The diocese received a complaint aboutPutnam from one man on May 13 and immediately began an investigation,Lewis said. Two days later, Adams prohibited Putnam from acting as apriest while the diocese investigated the allegations.
Theinvestigation revealed three other victims. All were males and minorsat the time. She would not describe the incidents but said some of themoccurred in the church at 96 E. Genesee St., Skaneateles.
"We just don't tolerate this," Lewis said.
Putnamcannot celebrate Mass, preach, teach, or perform any other functions ofa priest, Lewis said. He cannot wear a clerical collar and cannot usethe title "Rev." or "Father."
The 20-year suspension, which waseffective July 23, can be extended at the discretion of the bishop orhis successor, Lewis said.
Putnam could not be reached forcomment Monday. The telephone at his 42 Jordan St., Skaneateles, homehas been disconnected, and he did not respond to an e-mail message.
Histenure at the Skaneateles church immediately preceded that of Adams,who was elected bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New in 2001.Putnam also served as interim dean of St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral inSyracuse and in parishes in Albany, Rhode Island and Michigan. Heretired from active ministry in 2004.
Lewis said diocesanofficials informed New York State Police and the other dioceses wherePutnam ministered of the accusations. First Chief Assistant DistrictAttorney Rick Trunfio said he doesn't know about the case, and it'sunclear whether the criminal statute of limitations has run out.
Adamsand others involved with the investigation met Monday night withmembers of St. James Church. Lewis said informing the congregation ispart of diocesan policy.
"For it to remain a secret would cause damage," she said.
Diocesan clergy and lay leaders were informed in a letter from the bishop mailed Monday.
"TheEpiscopal Church and this Diocese maintain a zero-tolerance policy forany type of clergy misconduct, particularly in the area of sexualmisconduct," Adams wrote. "We know this behavior to be an abuse ofpower, a betrayal of trust, and a sinful act against God's belovedcreation."
The diocese has investigated three cases of clergysexual misconduct since 1992, Lewis said. The Rev. Wallace Frey, pastorof St. David's Episcopal Church in DeWitt for 28 years, resigned fromthe ministry in 1992 after admitting sexual contact with several youngmen, including at least one teenager.
In 2006, the Rev. Ralph E.Johnson resigned from the ministry after a five-month investigation ofallegations he sexually abused a boy in the 1970s while serving asrector of St. Paul's Church in Owego.
Neither was charged with a crime.
Thethird case involved a deceased priest. Lewis would not name the priest,but said the diocese is paying for counseling for the victim.
Putnamserved as chaplain to the New York State Assembly from 1994 to 1996. InNovember 2006, Putnamhe ran unsuccessfully against William Barclay,R-Pulaski, who won a third term representing the 124th AssemblyDistrict.
In 2004, Putnam self-published a novel, "Sandy Hill."The biography included with the book describes him as retired, but doesnot say he is a priest. The back cover describes the book as "quiteautobiographical."
The novel is about a recently retired schooladministrator returning to his hometown in upstateUpstate New York fora 45th high school reunion. In one scene, the main character, Dan,recalls an incident in which an older Boy Scout, Mitch, touched hisgenitals.
"Dan saw a pedestal shatter and a hero fall before hiseyes," Putnam wrote. "The trust Dan had committed to Mitch had beendestroyed, and it would never be the same again."
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