The Archdiocese of Boston yesterday reinstated a priest who had been placed on administrative leave for close to seven years while he was investigated on sexual abuse of children charges, ruling it could not substantiate the allegations.
The Rev. James F. Power, 78, formerly of St. James the Great Church in Wellesley, was reinstated as a senior priest after an archdiocesan panel was unable to substantiate two allegations against him.
The ruling came 12 years after the church had already settled a $35 million civil lawsuit brought in 1993 by an alleged victim of the priest.
Ann Carter, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said yesterday that she could not comment about Power's case, but said in general terms the rules of civil lawsuits are far different from those of canon law.
"The review board makes decisions, and the burden of proof they have to live up to is a separate process from the civil process," she said. "Civil cases get settled all the time without an admission of liability for a number of reasons."
Power was placed on administrative leave in February 2002 after church officials, in the midst of the sex abuse scandal, discovered from his personnel file that he had been the subject of the 1993 allegation. Then, a second allegation was made in October 2002.
In the 1993 complaint, the archdiocese settled a suit brought by a 13-year-old boy who said Power had plied him with alcohol and fondled and sodomized him in 1980 during a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. The case was settled in 1996, according to published reports.
Details of the complaint made in October 2002 were not known yesterday.
Typically, priests who reach the general retirement age of 75 are assigned the status of senior priest. Power's sacramental celebrations will be restricted to members of his family unless he receives permission from the archdiocese's vicar general.
Power was among dozens of clergymen who were removed from their posts in 2002.
"In reaching this decision, Cardinal Sean O'Malley reaffirmed his concern for all persons impacted by the sad reality of sexual abuse of children by clergy," the church said in a statement.
Correction: Because of a reporting error, a story in yesterday's Metro section greatly overstated the size of the settlement paid in a civil lawsuit brought by an alleged victim of sexual abuse by the Rev. James F. Power. The amount paid was $35,000.