Parishioners shocked by allegation of priest misconduct
By Peter Reuell
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
HUDSON-- Parishioners at St. Michael Church yesterday called the Rev. StevenPoitras a "personable, dedicated" priest, and expressed shock and angerat a recently revealed allegation of sexual misconduct.
Ina statement released Monday, the Archdiocese of Boston said Poitras hadbeen suspended from his post as the second-ranking priest at theManning Street church after being accused of sexual abuse of a minor.
According to the statement, the alleged abuse took place in 1994, when Poitras was assigned to a church in North Andover.
Afterreceiving the allegation, archdiocese officials notified the stateattorney general's office and the Essex County district attorney, andlaunched a preliminary investigation.
Parishioners, however, yesterday seemed reluctant to believe the allegations.
"He's a very nice person," Antonio Goncalves said outside the church. "It was very pleasant to have Mass with him."
The abuse allegation, "was a shock," he said. "We loved him. He was a very good person to be with."
Inside the church, two other parishioners, who asked that their names not be used, echoed Goncalves' comments.
"Heis a wonderful, wonderful man," one woman said, as she decorated aChristmas tree near the church's altar. "He was a very decent person,and he loved being a priest."
Parishioners were told of Poitras' suspension last weekend, and the scene was an emotional one.
"Wewere shocked," said the woman who asked not to be identified. "Peoplewere crying. Everybody was just in a state of shock."
"Hewas funny, very personable, outgoing," said one man, who also did notwant to be named. "Just a nice, nice man. We haven't talked to anybodythat wasn't in an absolute state of shock."
Whileon suspension, Poitras is not allowed to minister publicly, and is notallowed to live at the parish rectory, archdiocese spokesman KellyLynch said yesterday.
Church officials, however, emphasized the allegations against Poitras are just that -- allegations.
"Thedecision to place Father Poitras on administrative leave does notrepresent a determination of his guilt or innocence as it pertains tothis allegation," the statement reads.
ThoughLynch refused to give any further details on the allegation, she didsay the alleged abuse "did not occur at the parish to which FatherPoitras was assigned in 1994."
Officialsfrom both the attorney general's office and the Essex County districtattorney's office refused to confirm whether they are investigating theallegation.
DorothyKennedy, president of the Boston area Council of Voice of the Faithful,a group founded in the wake of the clergy sex abuse scandal, called thearchdiocese's decision to go public with the allegation correct.
"Ithink they've done the right thing in publishing it, yes," she said."We are interested in seeing justice for the victims of sexual abuse.The reason we want to see a credible allegation made public is becausethere may be other victims out there."
Kennedy, however, was quick to add that the organization wants to see due process for priests who are accused.
"Oneof our concerns is about priests who have been accused who are inlimbo," she said. "We've heard there are many priests that have beenaccused and we don't know the status of the investigations.
"Transparency is a real concern of ours because it's through transparency that justice prevails."
(Peter Reuell can be reached at 508-626-4428, or at email@example.com.)
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