The Archdiocese of Boston has placed a Plymouth priest on administrative leave following allegations that he sexually abused a 10-year-old girl more than 25 years ago.
The allegations against the Rev. Kenneth A. LeBlanc, pastor of St. Peter's Church in Plymouth, are described on a website in which the accuser alleges that the priest abused her as a child in his car and in his home.
In a statement yesterday, Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley expressed sadness over this most recent allegation of clergy sexual abuse, and officials for the archdiocese said it had launched a preliminary investigation into the allegation. A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said the action was taken after the Middlesex district attorney's office informed the archdiocese of the allegation.
Word of the website's allegations had begun to circulate among parishioners starting late last week, and archdiocesan officials confirmed in Masses during the weekend that LeBlanc had been placed on leave.
"Everybody's quite shocked," said Elizabeth Adey, a member of the parish council.
Adey said a bishop led the weekend Masses, and at the end of each Mass asked parents to escort children out before informing members of the allegations and the archdiocese's action.
LeBlanc, 60, has been pastor of St. Peter's Church in Plymouth since 2005.
The allegation coincides with the period he was assigned to Most Blessed Sacrament in Wakefield from 1976 until 1982, according to a timeline of his appointments provided by the archdiocese.
He also has served in parishes in Hudson, Waltham, Needham, Medway, and Newton, a number of assignments that is not unusual for a priest with a 30-year career, said archdiocese spokeswoman Kelly Lynch.
This was the first allegation of sexual abuse the archdiocese has received against LeBlanc, Lynch said, adding that archdiocesan officials have been in touch with the accuser.
"Through its Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach, the Archdiocese has offered to provide support services to this person and her family members," Lynch said in an e-mailed response to questions.
Lynch said the archdiocesan investigation is confidential and that she cannot say how LeBlanc has responded to the allegations. She also would not say when the archdiocese was informed of the allegations.
Messages left with the Middlesex district attorney's office were not returned.
Neither LeBlanc nor the accuser, who does not have a listed phone number, could be reached for comment.
The website includes the accuser's name and her accusations that LeBlanc abused her and other girls while he was serving in Wakefield.
The website also includes what the site's author says is an e-mailed response from LeBlanc to her accusations, in which the priest asks forgiveness and expresses regret for what he "might have done or not done," but does not explicitly acknowledge abuse. Lynch said she could not confirm whether the words were LeBlanc's, citing the ongoing investigation.
Anne Barrett Doyle of bishopaccountability.org, which tracks allegations of abuse nationally, could not identify any other case in which an accuser used a website to name her alleged perpetrator for the first time. She called the accuser's courage "extraordinary."
The Globe is withholding the woman's name because she is an alleged victim of sexual abuse.
Adey said that LeBlanc led Mass as recently as last week, but that he has been ill for much of his three years as church pastor.
"They've been happy with him," Adey said of parishioners. "He's been as active as he can be. When he's healthy and able, he's been in the parish.'
She described the parish as "well-established," and said she anticipated members would remain active.
"The people who have been working hard in different functions and different capacities are still going to work hard," she said. "It will still function as a close-knit parish."