Priest accused of sexual abuse

Second charge at Hudson church

Worcester Telegram/November 29, 2006
By Elaine Thompson

Hudson — For the second time in four years, a priest at St. Michael Catholic Church has been suspended or placed on leave because of an allegation of sexual abuse.

The Archdiocese of Boston, announced yesterday that the Rev. Steven W. Poitras, St. Michael’s parochial vicar, has been placed on administrative leave as a result of an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor in 1994. The archdiocese has initiated a preliminary investigation and forwarded the complaint to the state attorney general and the Essex County district attorney’s office, the statement read. A spokesman for the Essex County district attorney said that office does not confirm or deny an investigation.

The statement did not provide any details on the allegations or where the sexual abuse allegedly occurred.

“The decision to place Father Poitras on administrative leave does not represent a determination of his guilt or innocence,” the archdiocese said in a written statement.

Parishioners in the culturally diverse 3,000-plus family church community were notified during Masses last weekend.

“We were shocked … shocked to death. Everybody cried,” 58-year-old Celeste Braga, a native of the Azores and a Parish Council member, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “Even Father Walter (A. Carreiro) cried. He could hardly say what happened. It is a big loss that we are experiencing in our church.” She said “Father Steve,” as he is affectionately known, has been at St. Michael for about six years.

Rev. Carreiro did not return phone calls left at the parish yesterday. He became administrator of the parish in 2002, after Rev. Thomas M. Curran, who had headed the parish since 1996, was suspended because of an allegation of sexual abuse in the 1970s. Rev. Curran has denied the allegation and denied knowing his accuser. He remained on administrative leave with pay and benefits until his retirement for health reasons the following year.

Michael Mercuri, a 27-year-old Parish Council member, said he has been told by Rev. Carreiro and other authorities in the church that Rev. Curran was exonerated. Kelly Lynch, speaking for the archdiocese, did not return several calls yesterday. In a written statement in August 2002, then-Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna M. Morrissey said if the allegations against Rev. Curran proved to be unsubstantiated, “efforts will be made to restore the priest’s reputation.”

“Father Tom was cleared of all charges,” Mr. Mercuri said impassionedly. “They found no validity to any claims. But, unfortunately, once you’ve been accused, the Archdiocese wants nothing to do with you. They’d rather cut all ties because of past abuses. It’s really unfair. …

“Now Father Steve’s reputation is ruined and we may never see him again. The archdiocese may not let him come back. Everybody loved him. It’s very, very disappointing.”

“I’m not saying that there aren’t some priests that are guilty. But there are priests that have been exonerated. A lot of these priests get kicked to the curb from allegations from someone out there trying to make a buck,” Mr. Mercuri said.

He said as in Rev. Curran’s case, Rev. Poitras will get no help from the archdiocese with defense costs. But members of the parish will do all they can to assist, he said.

“We’re going to stand behind him 100 percent as a parish community. He’s been there for us and we’re going to be there for him,” Mr. Mercuri said.

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