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Spotlight Report

Parish responds with gasps of disbelief

By David Abel, Globe Staff, 2/03/2002

QUINCY -- It was after the presiding priest administered the Eucharist and offered a blessing that Bishop Richard J. Malone told hundreds of congregants at St. Joseph Church yesterday that their pastor of the last 11 years had been suspended for allegedly sexually abusing a child. Cries of "Jesus help us!" and "No, not us!" rang through the pews as Malone, the Archdiocese of Boston's regional bishop for the South Shore, delivered the unexpected news about the Rev. Daniel M. Graham, 57, who oversaw 19 Catholic churches from Braintree to Randolph.

"This announcement is the most difficult thing I have ever done as a bishop," Malone told the hushed parishioners at the 4 p.m. Mass. "But I know it doesn't compare to what this news is for you."

When the robed bishop explained the allegations, many parishioners gasped in disbelief and more than a few began to cry.

"I'm just absolutely shocked," said Jill Page, 38, the cantor of St. Joseph's who said she has known Graham for the past eight years. "I had no idea. It's just unbelievable. You hear these things in the news, but you never think it's going to be a priest in your parish."

Greeting the line of stunned parishioners before they filed out into the cold yesterday, Malone shook hands, hugged some, and told most, "You need to rely on your faith."

One woman looked at him for a long moment and then said, "Don't worry. Nothing will ever shake it!"

Many in the congregation vowed to suspend their judgment until the allegations are proven true or false.

Bart Caggiano, 81, a longtime parishioner who lives near the church, said he thinks the problem is that priests aren't allowed to marry.

"I am shocked as anyone," he said, "but there need to be changes in the church. And these are still just allegations. Father Graham has been very good for this church. We'll wait to see what happens in court."

A half hour after the bishop's announcement, Ann Murphy was still crying. "This is the worst thing that has ever happened," she said.

Mary Kahler, 33, who was counseled by Graham as she went through a recent divorce, at first had trouble finding words for her feelings.

Then she summed it up: "Shock. Deep sadness," she said. "Maybe a lot of us are in denial, but we're just hoping these allegations are completely unjustified."

This story ran on page A27 of the Boston Globe on 2/03/2002.
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