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The Archdiocese of Boston announced Jan. 31 that Father William M. Walsh, parochial vicar of St. Mary the Annunciation Parish in Danvers, has taken a voluntary leave of absence pending an investigation of an abuse allegation made against him.
According to a statement from the archdiocese, the claim made against Father Walsh concerns an incident that allegedly occurred “decades ago” and did not occur during his present assignment.
“This action should not be seen by anyone as a determination by the Church of guilt on the part of Father Walsh, but rather as a responsive effort to protect all parties and ensure due process, both civilly and canonically, for everyone,” the archdiocese said in the statement. “It is the sincere hope of the archdiocese that this particular situation may be resolved in a way that truly achieves justice and fairness for all concerned.”
Walsh, who was ordained in 1971, has twice been cleared of abuse allegations dating to 1980, according to archdiocesan files. It is unclear if the latest allegation is related to the previous two.
The archdiocese in March of 1980 had “third-hand” information that Father Walsh had abused a boy in the congregation at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. The archdiocese later concluded that no further investigation should be conducted because the child’s mother wrote a letter to the archdiocese clearing Father Walsh.
Two anonymous, undated letters sent to archdiocesan officials after January 2001 claim Father Walsh abused boys while he was assigned to St. Edward Parish, Brockton, according to Church files. Church records dated March 2003 indicate that in neither case did the letter writer make a formal complaint to the archdiocese or initiate legal action.
The archdiocese concluded at the time that “all of the material contained in the priest’s file is founded on rumor, secondhand information or is anonymous in origin,” and “recommends that this matter be considered closed based on the conclusion that there is a lack of information to conclude that a complaint of sexual abuse exists.”
AP materials contributed to this report.