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Ex-S.B. Priest Accused of Sex Abuse

Jan 14, 2003 | Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

A second Catholic priest who served in the Diocese of San Bernardino is facing allegations of sexual abuse in Boston, diocesan officials said Tuesday.

Nearly four months after learning from the Archdiocese of Boston that the Rev. Paul McLaughlin had been accused of abusing a minor, a spokesman for the San Bernardino diocese confirmed the allegation Tuesday and said McLaughlin has been barred by the diocese from any future ministry.

"We did not want to go forward or go public with the allegation until Boston notified Father McLaughlin of the allegation," said the Rev. Howard Lincoln, diocese spokesman. "We informed him in October that there was an allegation and that he was not in good standing in Boston, and he told us it was the first that he had heard of it. As far as I know, Boston to this day has not told him anything, either verbally or in writing."

The Boston allegation is from a man who says he was abused as a minor by McLaughlin in 1966, Lincoln said Tuesday.

Donna M. Morrissey, spokeswoman for the Boston Archdiocese, would not confirm Tuesday that any allegations had been levied against McLaughlin and said that if there was a pending investigation of McLaughlin, the archdiocese wouldn't discuss it.

McLaughlin is the second priest facing allegations of sexual abuse to have been transferred from Boston to San Bernardino.

Cardinal Bernard Law, formerly of Boston, transferred the Rev. Paul Shanley to San Bernardino in 1990, despite what court documents show to be Law's knowledge of Shanley's support of sexual relationships between men and boys.

The revelation prompted Bishop Gerald Barnes at last June's U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Dallas to demand from Law an apology for transferring Shanley.

Law has since resigned from his post as the Boston Archdiocese's leader amid a bevy of criticisms of his handling of the church's child sexual abuse scandal.

McLaughlin, 72, served as a supply priest in the Diocese of San Bernardino between fall 2001 and last May, when he officially retired from ministry, Lincoln said. There are no allegations of abuse against McLaughlin from his time in the San Bernardino diocese.

Lincoln said McLaughlin primarily served at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in La Quinta, in Riverside County, but also said Mass once at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Palm Desert, where Lincoln serves as pastor.

Lincoln said Tuesday that parishioners at the two parishes have not been notified of the allegation against McLaughlin, but that Bishop Gerald Barnes is considering making a formal announcement soon.

Lincoln said McLaughlin did not have diocesan permission to perform Mass in the San Bernardino Diocese and that he violated diocesan policy by doing so.

"I assumed he had permission, and I didn't check," Lincoln said. "We did not follow the proper process. We do everything that we can to protect kids. We don't do it perfectly, but we are trying."

In order for a priest to obtain permission to say Mass in the San Bernardino Diocese, a priest must have proper paperwork on file and must have written clearance from the diocese in which he most recently worked, Lincoln said.

When it was discovered that McLaughlin did not have the proper paperwork on file, San Bernardino officials twice contacted the Boston Archdiocese seeking clearance for McLaughlin, Lincoln said.

On Sept. 26, 2002 five months after the Diocese of San Bernardino first contacted the Boston Archdiocese - officials in Boston notified San Bernardino officials that an allegation of abuse had surfaced against McLaughlin and that he had been placed on administrative leave.

On Nov. 1, two days after receiving written notice from Boston about the abuse allegation, San Bernardino officials wrote a letter to the Boston Archdiocese, expressing to officials there disappointment they had not been notified of the McLaughlin allegation sooner.

"It put us in the untenable situation of having to explain the residence in our diocese of a priest from another diocese who had allegations against sexual misconduct against him," Lincoln said. "It was a tough position for us to be in, and it was very disappointing."

The Boston Archdiocese spokeswoman Morrissey said Tuesday that she was unaware of any such letter and that she is "unaware of the details of the story" being reported on.

On Jan. 10, more than two months after diocesan officials in San Bernardino wrote to Boston, new Boston Bishop Richard G. Lennon responded by saying he is not aware of any other priests in the Diocese of San Bernardino from Boston who have allegations of sexual misconduct against them.

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