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Palm Beach Diocese Suspends Priest Accused Decades Ago

Feb 8, 2003 | AP

The Diocese of Palm Beach suspended an 80-year-old priest this week, decades after the Boston Archdiocese learned of allegations he had sexual relations with teenage girls.

Four teenage girls from three Massachusetts parishes accused the Rev. Richard G. Johnson of sexual misconduct as early as the 1950s, according to documents the archdiocese released this week. The Boston Archdiocese responded by transferring Johnson and sending him to a psychiatrist who reported that Johnson was ``adolescent and has a psychopathic personality,'' according to the documents.

The psychiatrist reported to the archdiocese that Johnson had been ``parking'' with at least one of the girls and ``is terrified that he might be sent to a monastery.''

The Boston Archdiocese recommended Johnson's suspension under strict new rules against sex abuse. Deacon Sam Barbaro, a spokesman for the Palm Beach diocese, said Johnson has served as a priest at Emanuel Church in Delray Beach during the months of December through April since 2001.

Barbaro said the archdiocese would decide whether to take disciplinary action.

A phone listing for Johnson was not available. Barbaro said Johnson could not be reached through the diocese.

Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, who received a January 1998 memorandum about the sexual misconduct charges, recommended Johnson's move to Florida in 1998 and wrote that he was of ``good character and reputation.'' He added, ``I am unaware of anything in his background which would render him unsuitable to work with minors.''

In a 1994 memorandum, Johnson said he might have been ``a little affectionate with girls, but never did he sexually molest them.''

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