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Spotlight Report

Parish is told of abuse probe

3 men accuse former Dalton priest of abuse

By Scott S. Greenberger, Globe Staff, 9/16/2002

Bishop Thomas Dupre of the Diocese of Springfield yesterday told a Dalton parish that one of its former priests has been suspended amid allegations of sexual abuse.

However, Dupre told congregants at St. Agnes Parish that the departure of the Rev. John Koonz several months ago was not related to the allegations, which Koonz has denied. Three men have accused Koonz of abusing them when they were teenagers between 1969 and 1982.

In a statement he read during Mass, Dupre said he had to ''walk a fine line'' in the matter.

''I must be conscious of the need of any alleged victim for understanding,'' he said. ''At the same time, I must also be conscious of the fact that every priest is a human being who has his human and civil rights, which must be respected.''

Koonz will not minister in public while an investigation is conducted. He left St. Agnes for health reasons.

In Boston yesterday, Cardinal Bernard Law celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross without Monsignor Michael Smith Foster, whom the archbishop had invited to participate after Foster was apparently cleared of abuse charges. But four days after Law personally told Foster that church investigators had exonerated him, the Boston Archdiocese on Saturday suspended Foster again after meeting with his accuser, Paul R. Edwards.

Law had welcomed back Foster, the vicar general and highest-ranking priest in the archdiocese to be accused of sexual abuse, after Edwards's credibility was questioned. Acquaintances said Edwards, who alleged that Foster molested him from 1980 to 1985, had a history of making up stories. The Globe reported several inconsistencies in his abuse allegations, and Edwards's lawyer withdrew from the case shortly after the publication of the Globe report.

Donna M. Morrissey, the spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said Law had restored Foster to his post based on a ''preliminary investigation,'' which didn't include a discussion with Edwards. Once Edwards came forward, she said, the archdiocese was obligated to reconsider his charges.

Law did not allude to the matter during Mass yesterday.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 9/16/2002.
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