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Spotlight Report

Pastor removed from his post

By Thomas Farragher, Globe Staff, 6/1/2002

The Archdiocese of Boston yesterday removed the pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Rochester, saying it had found complaints that he sexually abused two men in the 1970s and 1980s credible enough to warrant a full investigation.

The Rev. John P. Lyons, who denies the allegations, becomes the 13th priest suspended by the archdiocese since the clergy abuse scandal broke open in January.

Lyons will continue to collect his salary and medical benefits, but he is barred from any public ministry. ''Should the allegation prove to be groundless, efforts will be made to restore the the priest's reputation,'' said Donna M. Morrissey, an archdiocesan spokeswoman.

''We're offering not only the people bringing forth the allegation but also Father Lyons pastoral counseling and other support systems when the investigation is ongoing,'' Morrissey told reporters at the chancery in Brighton.

The Globe reported on Wednesday that two Allston-Brighton men filed lawsuits saying they were molested by Lyons. In interviews, the men said that Lyons would put his hands in their pockets and fondle them while they were altar boys at Our Lady of the Presentation Church in Brighton. The men have asked to remain anonymous. The Globe does not publish the names of alleged victims of sexual abuse without their consent.

In compliance with the state's new mandated reporting law and the archdiocese's ''zero tolerance'' policy, Morrissey said church officials have forwarded Lyons's name to law enforcement authorities.

Morrissey would not supply any details about the allegations against Lyons.

Attorney Jeffrey A. Newman, who is representing the two men in their lawsuits, said the church yesterday agreed to set up meetings between the church's representative to alleged victims and the two men, if they want to meet.

''I'm very pleased with their thoughtful decision to investigate, and we will cooperate 100 percent,'' said Newman. Newman said he had also received more calls from people who said they were abused by the priest.

One of the alleged victims has told the Globe that he was repeatedly fondled by Lyons, perhaps as many as 15 times, over a period of two years before he acquired enough courage to fend off the alleged attacks. ''As I got older, there was a day when he came over and I basically elbowed him,'' the man said.

When he was contacted this week, Lyons denied the allegations. ''I never did that, no, dear God, no,'' he said.

Morrissey said the Rev. Bryan Parrish, vicar of the Plymouth vicariate, will attend weekend Masses at St. Rose of Lima to inform parishioners about the investigation and to provide assistance and counseling.

''During the course of an investigation, responsive steps may need to be taken quickly, and regrettably in this case, we were not able to inform parishioners first before making a public statement,'' Morrissey said.

The archdiocesan Delegate Office and Review Board will conduct the church's investigation.

One of the alleged victims said that his parents reported the alleged abuse to another priest, the Rev. John J. Nichols, who is now retired. He also said that Nichols notified a Chancery official, Bishop John M. D'Arcy. But the man said his family never received word of any disciplinary action against Lyons.

Newman said he will seek to depose D'Arcy, who is now the bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., diocese to determine whether the church knew about the allegations against Lyons.

Matt Carroll of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

This story ran on page A10 of the Boston Globe on 6/1/2002.
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