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Spotlight Report

Brooklyn Diocese suspends priest

By Michael Rezendes, Globe Staff, 7/30/2002

Four years after the Rev. Timothy J. Lambert and his brother accused a priest in the Brooklyn Diocese of sexually molesting them when they were teenagers, Bishop Thomas V. Daily has placed the accused priest on administrative leave, saying he will follow the procedures outlined in a child protection charter adopted last month by American bishops meeting in Dallas.

But Lambert said yesterday that he is skeptical of Daily's promise to investigate the allegations against the Rev. Joseph P. Byrns, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church. Church officials gave Byrns permission to address parishioners during Mass on Sunday, when Byrns again denied that he abused the Lambert brothers.

''I think they're going to let him take his little vacation, do what they call an investigation, and whitewash the whole thing,'' Lambert said.

Frank DeRosa, a spokesman for the Brooklyn Diocese, said Daily placed Byrns on administrative leave effective Friday after receiving new information about the Lambert brothers' allegations from Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

''The information that the Queens district attorney's office passed to the diocese will be investigated,'' DeRosa said. He would not reveal the information, and a spokeswoman from the district attorney's office declined to comment.

The Globe reported in March that Lambert and his brother, Robert, first made the allegations against Byrns during a 1998 meeting with officials of the Brooklyn Diocese. Timothy Lambert's attorney, Stephen C. Rubino, repeated the allegations a year later in an eight-page letter to Daily that described Lambert's abuse by a priest who had become a fixture at his home, where Lambert's mother was struggling to raise four sons and a daughter on her own.

In March, DeRosa said Daily had reviewed the allegations but concluded that Byrns was innocent and considered the case closed. But in a Globe interview then, DeRosa said the investigation went no further than interviews with Byrns and other church officials.

''Father Byrns has repeatedly denied in a very strong and meaningful way that anything took place.'' DeRosa then said.

In 1998, the diocese's policy for handling claims of sexual abuse against clergy would have required Church officials to thoroughly investigate such charges. But the Lambert brothers said the diocese never contacted other witnesses, including their mother, who they said would corroborate their allegations.

Daily, a Belmont native and former bishop of the Palm Beach, Fla., diocese, served as top deputy to the late Cardinal Humberto Medeiros and to Archbishop Bernard F. Law when Law arrived in Boston in 1984. Daily is a defendant in 56 lawsuits filed against officials of the Boston Archdiocese in connection with convicted pedophile and defrocked priest John J. Geoghan.

During his Boston tenure, Daily was the archdiocese's day-to-day administrator and played a pivotal role in moving Geoghan from one parish to another after Daily and other church officials learned that Geoghan had been accused of sexually molesting children. Court documents show that Daily knew Geoghan had been accused of abuse as early as 1980, when a Jamaica Plain priest told him that Geoghan had admitted to molesting seven children from the same extended family.

Lambert, who has resumed priestly duties in two parishes in the Metuchen, N.J., diocese after an extended leave, said he was molested by Byrns over a three-year period beginning about 1971 when he was in the sixth grade and an altar boy at St. Anastasia Parish in Queens. Lambert's older brother Robert said he was molested by Byrns over a shorter period of time.

Byrns, addressing parishioners in March after the Globe reported the allegations, denied the abuse, saying, ''The accuser, personally known to me, is a deeply tortured, troubled and disturbed person. He is more to be pitied than condemned.''

Michael Rezendes can be reached at

This story ran on page A10 of the Boston Globe on 7/30/2002.
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