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Spotlight Report

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Abington priest removed in new sex abuse case

Cleric is ninth cited by church this month

By Sacha Pfeiffer, Globe Staff, 2/21/2002

The Archdiocese of Boston yesterday removed an Abington pastor from parish duty due to "credible" allegations that he had sexually abused children, bringing to nine the number of priests ousted this month after evidence surfaced of sexual molestation of minors.

According to a statement issued by church officials, the Rev. Joseph L. Welsh of St. Nicholas parish was removed "from any assignment following allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor in accordance with our policy regarding clergy misconduct."

Welsh is the third pastor among the nine priests removed from duty this month. The Very Rev. Daniel M. Graham of St. Joseph parish in Quincy and the Rev. Paul J. Finegan of St. Bernadette parish in Randolph were removed from their posts Feb. 2 after church officials discovered that both men had been accused of sexually molesting children in the past.

Attempts to reach Welsh last night were unsuccessful, and church officials did not provide details about the allegations against him.

But the Globe reported yesterday that it had been contacted by a South Shore man who said he and his two brothers had been sexually abused by Welsh over two decades, beginning in the mid-1970s. The man's mother, who also spoke to the newspaper and asked that her family's name not be published, said she had considered Welsh a close family friend -- so close that she had named her youngest son after the priest.

Not until the eldest son confided the abuse to his family last September did his two brothers reveal that they, too, had been abused by Welsh. All three boys, who are now adults, said they never told one another or their parents of the alleged molestation.

The Globe was also contacted recently by a man who grew up in Holbrook and said he also had been molested by Welsh in the 1970s. His account of Welsh's alleged abuse mirrors some of the details provided by the South Shore family; both the Holbrook native and two of the three brothers said they were molested by the priest at a cottage on a pond in Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth.

In its statement, church officials said that "allegations reported in today's Boston Globe were concurrent with anonymous information received by the Archdiocese of Boston in the past several days. Independent of the Boston Globe's article, the Archdiocese of Boston initiated an appropriate review process and took action consistent with our policy."

Responding to the archdiocesan statement, the oldest of the three brothers last night reaffirmed the family's intention to go to Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz with evidence that his youngest brother was molested as recently as 1997.

The oldest brother, who is 41 and was allegedly molested by Welsh in the 1970s, expressed relief last night that the church "is now responding rapidly" to allegations of abuse. The oldest brother said he had not pursued criminal charges because the statute of limitations in his case had expired.

He even expressed concern for Welsh, saying, "I feel sad for where he may be sitting now. But healing can only occur when these problems are brought out in the open and dealt with."

Welsh, 59, was ordained in 1968. He had been pastor of the Abington parish since 1997.

Donna M. Morrissey, the archdiocesan spokeswoman, noted that another priest remains at St. Nicholas parish. This weekend, she said, a representative of the archdiocese will be at the parish to offer support to parishioners who may need it.

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 2/21/2002.
Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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