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Accused Priest Served In La Quinta

Boston Church Officials Didn’t Tell About Molestation Charge

Jan 15, 2003 | The Desert Sun

A Roman Catholic priest banned from further ministry in the Diocese of San Bernardino and facing allegations of sexual abuse in Boston once served part time at a La Quinta church, officials said.

The Rev. Paul McLaughlin, 72, has not been accused of molestation while in the San Bernardino diocese. However, last May a month before his ministry in the diocese ended he was accused of molesting a boy in Boston in the 1960s.

McLaughlin served in the diocese part time from the fall of 2001 until June 2002. He served primarily at St. Francis, celebrating Mass, but also said Mass at other parishes including once at Sacred Heart Church in Palm Desert, said the Rev. Howard Lincoln, a spokesman for Bishop Gerald R. Barnes.

He could not immediately name other parishes where McLaughlin may have worked as a visiting priest.

During his months in the valley, McLaughlin served on an as-needed basis, celebrating Mass when no other priest was available, Lincoln said.

Boston church officials did not tell their counterparts in San Bernardino about the molestation accusation until September. And that was in a phone call after the diocese had asked Boston for clearance documents on McLaughlin, Lincoln said.

"We were notified by telephone he was on a leave of absence because of an allegation against him," Lincoln said.

The Boston church officials did not detail anything in writing until Oct. 29, he said.

"We sent a letter (Nov. 1) to Boston expressing our disappointment we had not been told of the May allegation earlier," Lincoln said.

"We said to them, this put us again in the untenable position of explaining why a priest from another diocese who had received a serious allegation was residing in our diocese."

The diocese also asked Boston church officials if they knew of any other priests residing in the San Bernardino diocese who had allegations of sexual misconduct against them.

After receiving no response, the diocese in December followed up with another request and on Jan. 10 received a written reply saying Boston church officials were unaware of any priests here facing such allegations, Lincoln said.

The San Bernardino diocese has not yet directly informed the local parishes where McLaughlin served of the accusations against him. Instead, the diocese has placed a notice on its Web site saying that three visiting priests, including McLaughlin, did not have the "necessary faculties" to minister in the diocese. The notice offered no explanation.

The parishes had not been directly informed because the Boston archdiocese had not yet told McLaughlin of the sexual abuse allegation against him, Lincoln said.

Last year, San Bernardino officials discovered that Paul Shanley, a priest who had been sent to them from Boston in 1990, had been accused of molesting boys. Boston officials had not informed the San Bernardino diocese about Shanley’s past.

Shanley worked in the San Bernardino diocese until 1993 when his past was made known to local church officials, and he was dismissed.

In addition to working as a priest, he co-owned a gay-themed hotel in the Warm Sands neighborhood of Palm Springs.

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