Watertown priest is placed on leave after abuse allegation

Globe/August 31, 2009

The Archdiocese of Boston has placed the pastor of St. Patrick's Parish in Watertown on administrative leave, after he was recently accused of a sexual assault 20 years ago.

Church officials have notified an unspecified law enforcement agency of the allegation against the Rev. Frederick Barr and have initiated an internal investigation into the complaint, said Kelly Lynch, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese.

Barr will remain on administrative leave pending the outcome of the preliminary investigation, Lynch said. The Rev. Raymond Kiley has taken over as administrator of St. Patrick's Parish.

"The decision to place Fr. Barr on administrative leave represents the archdiocese's commitment to the safety of all parties and does not represent a determination of [Barr's] guilt or innocence as it pertains to this allegation," the archdiocese said in a statement. "The archdiocese will work to resolve this case as expeditiously as possible and in a manner that is fair to all parties."

The archdiocese would not discuss specific details of the allegations because the investigation is ongoing.

The archdiocese also would not say what law enforcement agency was notified about the complaint; the Boston Police Department said all sexual assault cases are classified and would not confirm whether it is involved in investigating Barr.

Barr, who has been working in area churches for decades, was hired in early 2008 as a pastor at St. Patrick's after recovering from a severe ulcer that had him hospitalized and bedridden for 18 months, according to the Watertown Tab & Press.

His journey toward priesthood began when he attended St. John's School of Theology-Seminary in Minnesota, and in 1976, he was ordained a deacon, Lynch said.

He worked at St. Luke's Catholic Church in Belmont from 1985 to 1990, when the assault allegedly took place.

Barr also has done ministry work at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Boxborough, St. Mary's Parish in Charlestown, St. Clement's Religious in Somerville, St. James the Great Parish in Wellesley, St. Patrick's Parish in Natick, and Star of the Sea Parish in Quincy. He also has worked as president of the Quincy Interfaith Sheltering Coalition and as a part-time chaplain at Logan International Airport.

Barr could not be reached for comment.

Hundreds of cases of sexual abuse by the clergy have troubled the Catholic Church in recent years. The church has sought to be more transparent about allegations, which exploded publicly in 2002 in a series of stories by the Globe Spotlight Team after decades of being hidden or handled quietly.

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