Retired Episcopal priest removed amid abuse charges

By Vivian Ho
Globe Correspondent / February 27, 2011

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A retired Episcopal priest from Marblehead was removed from the priesthood this month after the church learned of allegations that he had abused a minor in 1974, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts said.

The allegations against Franklin E. Huntress Jr., 77, were brought to the bishop’s office in October, said the Rev. Canon Mally Lloyd. Upon further investigation, the diocese discovered he was arrested in 1994 on accusations of sexually abusing a minor when he was serving in England. Huntress resigned before he could be subjected to a church trial, and Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, Society of St. John the Evangelist, officially removed him Feb. 11, according to the diocese.

“When something like this comes up, my heart sinks,’’ Lloyd said. “There is no good outcome of this, for anyone. The alleged abuse happened almost 30 years ago and someone had been walking around carrying that since then. Then for the congregations that have often received wonderful pastoral care from the perpetrator, it is very devastating to realize that clergy is human with all the human flaws that affect the rest of us.’’

Huntress did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Since he was ordained in 1962, Huntress had served at 12 churches, six of them in Massachusetts, including St. Paul’s Episcopal Parish in Malden; St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in New Bedford; All Saints in Dorchester; and Church of the Advent in Beacon Hill. He retired in 1995, but had been working recently at the Church of Holy Name in Swampscott, and St. Michael’s Church in Marblehead.

Representatives from the Church of Holy Name and St. Michael’s could not be reached. Lloyd said reactions from the congregation ranged from anger to disbelief to gratitude that actions were being taken.

Lloyd said the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, which cares for 185 parishes in Eastern Massachusetts, sent a pastoral response team — people trained in congregational issues and misconduct issues — to the congregations to provide support.

Huntress was the ninth person the diocese had removed from the priesthood for alleged sexual misconduct since 1990, and the third to be removed for alleged sexual misconduct involving minors, diocese spokeswoman Tracy Sukraw said. Sukraw and Lloyd said they do not know where the alleged abuse in 1974 took place.

The church notified the Middlesex district attorney of the allegations, but the statute of limitations had expired, said Lloyd.