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Spotlight Report

Spagnolia vacates St. Patrick

Former priest says his leaving will aid healing

By Caroline Louise Cole, Globe Staff, 3/4/2002

LOWELL - Father D. George Spagnolia gave up his fight to stay in the St. Patrick Church rectory yesterday afternoon. Spagnolia had been ordered to vacate his church apartment by Cardinal Bernard F. Law last Tuesday after being placed on paid administrative leave. He was formally relieved of his duties as a priest Feb. 19, after an allegation of abuse 31 years ago that surfaced four days earlier.

Although many of his supporters offered him a place to stay, Spagnolia said he had decided it would be best for the parish and for him to leave the city, at least temporarily. He said he was uncertain where he would end up staying. ''I am going to take a leisurely ride and see where the spirit takes me,'' Spagnolia said. ''I am not being pious, but I think the parish will heal faster and so will I if I am not within the confines of the city. I just need time to think this all through.''

Although he did not appear in church during yesterday's 10 a.m. Mass, he did spend several hours outside the rectory saying goodbye to parishioners. Then, dressed in jeans, a long-sleeved blue shirt, and his trademark sandals, he left the St. Patrick Church rectory shortly before 2:30 p.m.

Several churchgoers leaving the morning Mass said their support for Spagnolia was unshaken despite his admission last week that he had lied about two homosexual relationships he had while on leave from the priesthood during the 1970s.

''He is the most human priest of any that I have ever known, and the bottom line is that he has always been here for us,'' said Karen Hayes. ''He did lie to protect his personal life but we all do that. We are continuing to support him because I, for one, just don't believe the allegation of abuse is true. That's the issue that needs to be addressed, and we are behind him on that.''

Added Mary Ma, ''I liked him before and I still like him now. He has been very important to this parish and we are standing with him.''

Caroline Louise Cole can be reached at

This story ran on page B3 of the Boston Globe on 3/4/2002.
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