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Spotlight Report

Lowell priest suspended on sex misconduct report

By Douglas Belkin, Globe Staff, Globe Correspondent, 9/10/2002

The Archdiocese of Boston yesterday suspended the Rev. Leonard E. Pelletier from his duties as pastor of a Lowell parish, citing recently reported allegations of sexual misconduct more than 20 years ago.

Pelletier, pastor of St. Louis de France Parish, was removed from all his assignments ''in accordance with [the archdiocese] policy for handling allegations of sexual misconduct with minors by members of the clergy,'' according to a statement last night from Donna M. Morrissey, spokeswoman for the archdiocese.

Pelletier is the 23d priest to be suspended by the archdiocese since the clergy sexual abuse crisis began in January.

''I'm very devastated right now. I can't believe it's true,'' said Denise Frechette, who is involved with religious education at the church. ''I'm still just trying to straighten this out in my head. I'm having a hard time believing this.''

Frechette said Pelletier had been at the church for eight or nine years. She learned of the suspension last night at the end of Mass.

Pelletier is the second priest from Lowell to be suspended in recent months. In March, the Rev. George Spagnolia left the St. Patrick Church rectory after he was formally relieved of his duties in February over allegations of abuse 31 years ago.

Archdiocese officials also said that Monsignor Michael Smith Foster, the archdiocese's top canon lawyer, is expected to be formally cleared this week of sexual misconduct and reinstated to his position.

Accusations against Foster made by Paul R. Edwards of Winchendon

were withdrawn in Suffolk Superior Court last week after the claims were questioned.

The archdiocese said Pelletier will receive a salary and medical benefits during the review of the allegations against him, but he will not be allowed to perform any public ministry in the church. ''If the allegations prove to be groundless, efforts will be made to restore the priest's reputation,'' Morrissey's statement read.

Globe correspondent Joe Spurr contributed to this report.

This story ran on page B6 of the Boston Globe on 9/10/2002.
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